Tweens mesh latest fads, moms & dads

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Whether they're surfing the Net or shopping with mom, tweens-kids ages 8 to 12-have the money and influence to make them the market segment to watch.

Tweens spent $55.7 billion in 1999 and influenced another $250 billion in consumer spending, according to data in KidTrends' "Marketing to Tweens Report."

"There are more than 23 million tweens in the U.S. today," says Selina Guber, president of Children's Market Research, which conducted the KidTrends study. "They set trends for the younger kids and influence their families. They follow the latest fads, listen to the hottest music, play videogames and buy, buy, buy!"


Tweens obtain money from various sources. The study reveals 45% of the kids earned money doing chores and 34% received allowances. Twenty-eight percent also received money from their parents on an as-needed basis. Most had between $5 and $10 to spend each week, but 8% had as much as $50.

"Kids are brand savvy at younger ages than ever," says Paul Kurnit, president of Griffin Bacal, New York, and founder of market consultancy Kid Think. "There are a number of marketers who realize that, if they build meaningful brand relationships with kids, they can grow them into relationships with teens and adults."

Marketers "are targeting kids as never before in categories we never saw before-main meals, automotive, health & beauty aids," Mr. Kurnit adds.


For instance, Eastman Kodak Co. is actively marketing its Kodak Max One-Time Use camera to tween girls. Based on research showing the girls had a strong interest in taking pictures, Kodak last fall launched its "Take one, pass it on" campaign.

Sales since then have been very strong, says Paula Dumas, VP-brand marketing development at Kodak.

"We're certainly hoping to develop brand affinity at an early age and help establish their picture-taking habits," says Ms. Dumas.

Similarly, the KidTrends study found 23% of boys prefer Tommy Hilfiger clothing, while 23% of girls prefer Old Navy.

A poll of parents by market researcher Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates found children influence 40% of parents' purchases, while 65% of parents explicitly solicit children's opinions about products purchased for the entire household, including cars and computers.

"Tweens also strongly influence family food-buying decisions," says Greg Livingston, exec VP, WonderGroup, a Cincinnati-based kid marketing specialist. Especially in families with two working parents, moms and dads want to capitalize on the small amount of family time that's available. They don't want to argue about what's for dinner, so they're more likely to include tweens in the decision-making process, says Mr. Livingston.


Products that please both parents and tweens are likely to be winners. Reebok International's Traxtar shoe features a built-in microchip that tells kids how fast they're running, and how high and far they're jumping.

"The product leverages [kids'] natural need to run around and is tied to their need for immediate feedback," says Michael Phelan, Reebok marketing director. "The [result] is they'll be more active and get more exercise, which is positive for parents."

The Internet is another place where marketers can reach this age group. Some tweens have access to a family credit card and typically spend between $300 and $500 a year on Internet purchases, says Ms. Guber.

"In the future, more dot-coms will establish themselves as central points for tweens," says Howard Shimmel, president of market researcher Symmetrical Resources.

"Cool is the key word for this age group," says Ms. Guber. "If it's not cool, forget about it."

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