By Gregg Lipman:
Tweens are a complicated bunch—as parents and marketers know. Considered “too old for toys, too young for boys (and girls),” this demographic of kids ages 9 to 14 is feisty, opinionated, honest, sharp, cynical, and responsible for $200 billion in sales a year. That means tweens yield a tremendous amount of purchasing power, which is why every smart marketer needs to keep them top of mind in 2012.
Creating, designing, and marketing brands for tweens, however, is a challenge mostly because tweens are full of dichotomies.
1. Tweens aspire to be older—but are still children.
2. They want to be unique—but also fit in.
3. They have strong ideas about what they want to buy—but need parental involvement and approval to purchase desired items.
That last point means marketers need to talk authentically to teens and, at the same time, convince parents that the products are worth their money.
Appealing to parents and tweens isn’t easy. And as the parent of a tween, I can tell you that there’s a fine line between being cool and trying too hard. (I’ve gotten the stink eye one too many times for corny comments I’ve made in front of my daughter.)
My company, CBX, found out how difficult it is to appeal to both tweens and parents when we, as brand stewards of Kimberly-Clark’s U by Kotex feminine care line, were asked to design U by Kotex Tween. After conducting a deep dive to get into the minds of tween girls, we created packaging that featured:
-Copy that speaks to girls honestly and openly
-A black and pink glittery pack that conveys the idea of “girly princess meets teen rebellion”
-Star-shaped peekaboo windows that let girls see the brightly colored product
-Designs with hot pink doodled stars and hearts that could be straight from girls’ notebooks
-Discreetly designed packaging and product, so as not to embarrass girls
-The designs were a hit in addressing a tween’s desire for freedom and self-expression, and her mom’s need for reassurance and safety. By appealing to both tweens and -parents, sales of U by Kotex Tween helped Kotex capture a 15.9% share of the tampon market and 19.4% of the sanitary napkin and liners segment.
Another product that tweens like and parents approve is Someday perfume. Do you have a Biebs lover in your house? (I do!) Justin Bieber and his team just keep hitting it right from a branding angle. His perfume for girls, Someday, strikes a perfect balance between being modest enough for parents and alluring enough for tweens. In the ads, a young girl is shown pining for Justin, who is shown against a backdrop of purple, his favorite color (and that of many tween girls). The perfume bottle features blooming hearts that appeal to this love-obsessed demographic and a removable key and jewel-encrusted heart to carry Justin wherever the tween goes. Tween-friendly elements such as those helped Someday bring in $3 million in sales in its first three weeks.
Tween Marketing Gone Horribly Wrong
Not all products can balance the appeal to tweens and their parents. Some products miss the mark completely and get shunned by both tweens and parents.
For example, let’s take Abercrombie Kids’ Ashley Push-Up Triangle. The bikini top lined with push-up padding was marketed to girls as young as eight. Eight! Tweens may want to seem grown-up, but their parents still want to keep them kids—which is why parents were absolutely furious over the product. Abercrombie & Fitch backpedaled, saying the product was always intended for girls ages 12 and up. The bikini top was soon removed from shelves, and Yahoo Finance’s 24/7 Wall Street placed the Ashley Push-Up Triangle in its No. 1 slot for biggest product failure of the year.
How to Best Reach Tweens
In addition being smart about tween products, marketers have to be savvy about their advertising and promotions. Gone are the days of reaching tweens via 30-second TV spots. Tweens are tech-obsessed, always looking for the newest and coolest platforms and gadgets. This audience likes to push its boundaries, albeit within a controlled environment like Mommy and Daddy’s house. New platforms come out every day. (Facebook and Tumblr are being replaced by newer programs like Xbox Live and Sweety High.) The most successful ads tend to mix an element of danger with something safe and responsible.
Here are a few rules for marketing to tweens.
1. Know your audience
Conduct a serious deep dive into the media, technology, fashion, and products that are speaking to tweens today.
2. Tell it (to parents and tweens) like it is
Tweens want to be talked to—not down to. Immerse yourself in their lingo, and keep your words short and sweet in a relatable, conversational tone. But be sure to use language that doesn’t completely alienate parents; they’re the ones paying, after all.
3. Wow them
Always include an element of surprise, something unexpected and fun, that will stand apart from the competition as well as from their parents’ products. Funky graphics, glitter, stickers, and jewels all feel like special treats for tweens.
4. Give tweens a voice
Tweens like to put their stamp on the world, so give them avenues for feedback on social networks.
5. Keep cool
Lastly, keep in mind that tween trends change like the weather… Be sure to stay abreast of what’s cool right now. If you don’t know what’s trendy, tweens won’t give you the time of day.