Tween consumer trends analysed for 2007
The 'tweens' age group (8-14) is undoubtedly a powerful segment of consumers, with increasing spending power and influence over family purchase decision making, according to Zandl Group's forecast of 2007's ten key tween consumer trends.
Technology has had a profound impact on how tweens play, communicate and shop. Family has become more important, with fewer role models coming from the worlds of entertainment and sports. And, sadly, with so many global crises and security issues in the news, tweens are losing their youthful innocence at an earlier age than ever before.
Ten key tween trends Anna D'Agrosa, editor of Zandl Group's The Hot Sheet, says that since the 1990s, CD players have been swapped for iPods, beepers for camera phones, baggy jeans for skinny jeans, Snickers for Hershey Bars, pro-sports careers for tech-entrepreneur, and "Wazzup" for "LOL". Among the main changes that will affect tween marketers in the year to come are:
- Tech-power Ten years ago, their tech world was much simpler - Segas, CD players, computers and beepers. Email and "internet pen pals" were just starting, as were "portable phones". Their current tech environment is filled with PS2, PSP, Nintendo DS, Xbox, Gameboys, Gamecubes, DSL, TiVo/DVR, camera cell phones, mp3 players/iPods, laptops, social networking sites, and portable DVD players. Both boys and girls now prefer videogames to traditional toys (81% of boys and 47% of girls). They find them more challenging, competitive, brainy and good for hand-eye coordination. Over the last 10 years, the number of girls who prefer videogames to all other types of games has risen threefold from 7% to 23%. Most have favourite websites, and entertainment and game/humour sites are most popular (e.g. Cartoonnetwork.com, Disney.com, and HomeStarRunner). They're also into eBay, and girls are already on MySpace.
So what's next? Tweens have grown up primed for interconnectivity and an age of wireless information. We'll see more portability and more adult products (e.g. Treos, Bluetooth for kids). More girls will get into gaming and websites will replace most magazines.
- More options/The long tail It's increasingly difficult to generate the blockbuster hits that once marked the tween market. All major brands are showing declines in popularity; for example, while Nike is still the most dominant footwear brand it is down almost 20% due to niche activity in the category.
So what's next? As tweens are exposed to more options, their tastes will develop more independently at earlier ages and start to mirror the fragmentation we see in the teen market.
- Girls outpacing boys academically More girls are planning to go to college and are career-oriented at younger ages. They are almost twice as likely as boys to expect to be in a professional field (e.g. medicine, teacher, or lawyer).
So what's next? As boys lag behind academically, we'll see a greater focus on boys' education, including more efforts to recruit male teachers and develop curricula specifically geared to boys' learning patterns.
- Less sports involvement Especially among boys, a significant decline in sports involvement - as a fun time (down 40%), favourite game (down 60%), favourite possession (down 30%), role model (down 60%), like to meet (down 40%), Sports Illustrated (down 50%), and collecting sports cards (down 30%). Basketball, soccer, football and baseball/softball are the most popular sports, with football showing the biggest increase (up 40%) and baseball the biggest decline (down 38%). It's worth noting, however, that Michael Jordan was a key factor in tweens idolising athletes, being around four times as popular as other sports stars in the 1990s - and this factor does skew the role model numbers significantly.
So what's next? With childhood obesity on the rise, we'll see a renewed focus on sports and fitness programmes. However, most schools are running on budget deficits (exacerbated by cutbacks in taxes and soft drink distribution contracts). Parents will have to shoulder the burden and become more involved.
- Family becomes more important Over half of tweens cite family members as role models - a 40% increase over the last decade. While kids consider entertainers and sports stars fun, they don't necessarily admire them or trust them to do the right thing. Kids look to family to teach them right from wrong, and be there to talk to about problems. They admire their parents for working hard, supporting the family and overcoming adversity.
So what's next? Family will continue to be most important, especially in light of the scandals and corruption amongst high-profile figures in business, government, sports and entertainment.
- More trading-up to teen/young adult brands More tweens are opting for brands marketed to older teens or young adults. These products are often more premium, more sophisticated, and/or more edgy. Examples include A&F, Coach purses, Puma, iPods, T-mobile sidekick, MySpace, Grand Theft Auto, Mudd jeans, Skechers shoes, Axe Deo fragrance, Victoria's Secret, Mt. Dew, TGI Friday's, and Olive Garden.
So what's next? For girls, tweens are shaping up to become the new teens. More premium products and retailers will start to target tween girls with teen strategies and campaigns. This may well succeed, given that so many teen-focused products appeal to aspiring tweens while missing the mark with teens.
- Concerned about diet but not changing eating habits McDonald's is still the top restaurant for tweens, and its popularity has increased. Pizza remains their favourite food, and soft drinks remain their favourite beverages, but the market is reporting a decline in soda consumption among the girls, who tend to favour water now.
So what's next? As obesity and health issues become more widely reported, more schools will be forced to switch products in their vending machines and change the lunch menus to more healthy foods. However, the biggest changes will come when affluent 'Whole Foods' parents get engaged politically with school boards, making 'big food and soda' the next target.
- More edgy Tweens are less naïve and innocent than ever before because of their increasingly early exposure to violence, sex, and everyday risks and dangers. They learn about mature topics through the internet, TV, movies, family conversations and safety warnings at home and school about child abuse, kidnappings, online predators, and so on. As a result, they're attuned to edgier, older-skewed entertainment and marketing: Tween favourites currently include 50 Cent, Eminem, Pussycat Dolls, MTV, Dave Chappelle, and GTA Vice City.
So what's next? Parents and schools are compelled to warn children about dangers in the community and online. As kids become savvier to the ways of the world, it will continue to erode their childhood innocence and make more mature subject matter feel more relevant to them.
- The Christian lifestyle In its in-home ethnographies with tweens Zandl Group has noted a significant increase in conservative Christian families. More belong to "mega churches" with active youth ministries, attend Christian schools, and go to bible studies and bible camps. These families typically socialise with other church members. Mothers tend stay at home, and the families exercise more rigorous control over their children's entertainment choices.
So what's next? Zandl anticipates that the true evangelical Christian families will continue becoming more conservative, while many mega church families may become disenchanted and move on.
- Outstanding brands in the tween space Disney has been extremely successful in reaching tweens - especially the girls. The Disney Channel has had a run of blockbuster hits with High School Musical and That's So Raven. They have also been successful partnering with Pixar as well as with non-animated movies like Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean. Other entertainment success stories include: Sony Playstation, Nintendo, MGA Entertainment's Bratz dolls, Nickelodeon's Sponge Bob Squarepants, and the Cartoon Network.
So what's next? Retail favourites are being chosen at an early age. In terms of the retail space, Wal-mart and Target have doubled in popularity over the past decade while Limited Too has become aspirational for Tween girls.
The Hot Sheet trend research report examines the changes and trends in youth culture, having tracked the segment for fifteen years. Zandl's clients include Kellogg's, Viacom, Bath & Body Works, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and Starcom Media, among others.