I believe that for a brand to be successful in the tween market, it must understand three essentials needs of the tween consumer: aspiration, security, and acceptance. The combination of these three doesn’t equal success 100% of the time, but these are all important elements.
Tweens are aspirational. Tween girls want to be teen girls. That will never change. They want to dress like their favorite Disney and Nickelodeon stars. Stores like Justice offer skinny jeans, UGG-style boots, and graphic tees. The stores even offer cosmetics and spa products! It’s the very definition of tween aspiration.
It’s also important for tweens to shop in a comfortable environment. Justice offers tweens that security. They know that there will be no embarrassing moments, shopping amongst their teen counterparts. And more importantly, there are no tween boys. It’s important to understand that even though tweens aspire to be older, psychologically, they are more like children than they are teenagers. They still need and want their mom to play a major role not only in their buying decisions, but also in their lives. In a recent Buzz Marketing Group survey, Mom ranked #1 as a confidant over teachers and friends.
Tweens also need to feel accepted. If a tween girl is going to try out a “punk” look, it’s more likely that her group of friends (or her tribe) will also be trying out this look. Tween girls are figuring out who they are and what they want to be. They’re still not sure of themselves. They are experiencing new things everyday, and have yet to totally define who they are. Tweens will not try a brand that has not yet been vetted for cool factor. Even a Queen Bee tween is most likely sporting well-known brands. It’s just not a risk they’re willing to take.
While tween girls identify themselves based on their retail choices, tween boys are not shoppers. Where will you find a tween boy? The obvious answer is playing with his video games. They may have abandoned the LEGOs they played with as boys for LEGO Star Wars, the action video game that, according to Wired magazine, has sold over 6.7 million copies. So we know that boys like the action and escapism offered in video games, but what else do they like?
Books. That’s right, tween boys are big readers. And no series is more popular with tween boys than Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This series offers every element I mentioned earlier as being important to tweens: aspiration, security, and acceptance. In some ways, they can relate to the main character in the series, Greg Heffley. Even though he may be a little nerdy, he’s aspirational. He’s a nerd who wins. There is security in the reading experience. It’s something that tween boys own. It can also be as private or as public as they like. And Diary of a Wimpy Kid is cool with other tween boys and girls, having sold millions of copies.
But here’s one final caveat: tweens are not brand loyal. One example of their lack of loyalty is the transition of all of the Limited TOO stores to Justice. Same products, different name, same tween customer. Tweens weren’t loyal to the Limited TOO brand at all. Justice may have been a different brand name, but it offered the same aspiration, security, and acceptance.