Cracking the tween connection code

Identify the unique tween benefit and dimensionalize it with tween truth
March 1, 2002

Identify the unique tween benefit and dimensionalize it with tween truth

The tween years are marked by both new experiences that brands can enhance and unfamiliar challenges they can help resolve. Whether tweens are contending with a big concert, a first school dance or a giant front-and-center pimple, there may be an opportunity for your brand to meet the special needs arising from these situations.

Saatchi & Saatchi’s ongoing advertising for Yoplait’s Go-Gurt helps tweens celebrate their newfound independence. The yogurt-in-a-tube’s kid-specific brand benefit–portability–is highlighted in ads depicting demo-defining, parent-free activities like playing at the beach, riding bikes and taking trips. The brand’s cool status helps to make these already exciting activities that much more appealing to tweens. The 2000/2001 campaign’s be-where-tweens-live hook helped to separate the brand from its competition in the yogurt category. Go-Gurt tripled its penetration rate–with consumption up 141% among tweens 12 to 15–and gained a 32% lead over the number-two competitor.

Ask yourself: ‘What’s fun about that?’

Yes, tweens are knocking on the door of teenhood–but it hasn’t opened yet. Nor has the door fully closed on the concept of goofing around. That’s why marketers must incorporate the fun factor into their brand communication strategies and executions.

Just remember, tween fun is social, aspirational and generally parent-free. Recent Saatchi & Saatchi advertising for products such as General Mills’ Reese’s Puffs cereal and Betty Crocker Fruit Gushers showcases tween-kind-of-fun activities like traipsing through a mall, jamming in a garage band and playing in a school basketball game.

When reality bites, bite back

Tweenhood is wrought with emotion, thanks to psychological conflicts and those infamous raging hormones. Tweens don’t always obey like kids and accept things like teens. As a result, the tween reality is a hyper-reality in which you hate your brother, you love Britney Spears, and you’re going to die if you can’t see that movie with your friends. Respecting this element of extremity–and depicting it accordingly–tells this misunderstood group that you know where it’s coming from.

When Saatchi & Saatchi helped Kodak position its One-Time Use Cameras to tweens and teens, the challenge was to show how the product is relevant to the tween/teen lifestyle. Aware of tweens’ need to ‘stand out while fitting in,’ Saatchi & Saatchi created advertising that showed how the camera was a tool for connecting with peers. Its ability to help tweens navigate difficult social situations has since helped to establish the Kodak Max as a must-have accessory among youth, with AC Nielsen stats indicating a 19% increase in brand preference among tweens from fall 1999 to spring 2000 and a 14% spike in purchase intent among girls 13 to 15 (July 1999 to January 2000).

Be hip, but not so hip that you’re square

Despite their still-kid status in adults’ eyes, tweens themselves seek to look, act and be treated as if they’re older. Things they enjoyed a few years back now represent a time when they were more restricted and way less cool–and are therefore rejected as ‘dumb’ and ‘babyish.’ As a Kid Connection on-line panelist queried on her shopping habits explains: ‘I used to like Gap Kids, but that’s for babies. I’m 10 now, so I go to regular Gap.’

This disdain for all things outgrown is something marketers should keep in mind when they’re developing programs and partnerships based on the property, music, celebrity or brand du jour. Too strong of an affiliation–or one that lasts too long–can negatively impact brands when said hot thing cools off or gets rejected as being ‘so last year.’

Event partnerships are one way to stay in the tween moment because they last just long enough for marketers to capitalize on the hot status of a property, music genre, celebrity or brand. That’s precisely what Saatchi & Saatchi and Procter & Gamble tapped into with the summer 2001 launch of Sunny Delight Caribbean Style. The effort included sponsorship of ‘Nickelodeon’s TEENick presents Aaron’s Party,’ featuring pop sensation Aaron Carter, as well as ticket giveaways in conjunction with Top 40 radio stations in tour cities. This initiative indelibly associated TEENick’s energy and Aaron’s coolness and star status with the fun and spontaneity of Sunny Delight’s new fruit beverage.

Mom and Dad can still take a backseat

Families are reconnecting and kids and parents do wish for more time together, but that doesn’t mean the tender moments must be shared in your marketing communication. Separation and autonomy are hallmarks of tweenhood, and besides, some parents are just sooooo embarrassing. If a mom-and-pop slant doesn’t feel right for your brand, find ways to involve them beyond your communication. Give them discount coupons, advice and information. Contribute to their communities, and support their tweens at a time in their lives when parents find themselves on the outside looking in.

The tween medium really is the message

Almost as important as the message a marketer delivers is the hipness of where it’s placed. Running ads during a must-see tween show or in a must-read publication, for example, can encircle your brands in a halo of must-have glory. Same goes for having a presence in aspirational settings such as malls, concert arenas or arcades. With tweens, it’s not just what you say, it’s also where you say it.

Holly Gross is a youth culture specialist at Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, a unit of the agency that conducted proprietary research upon which this column is based. For more info about Kid Connection, contact Jonathan Goldmacher by phone (212-463-2850) or by e-mail (

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