Towards Teen Girls’ Self-Acceptance of Appearance

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, Oct 09, 2015 @ 02:20 PM

The way teen girls feel about their appearance can change on a dime.  A kind word, a cruel one, even how many “likes” their latest selfie receives, can impact the way they feel in the moment.  At YouthBeat, we track the way youth are feeling about their looks every year. 

Over the past few years, teen girls’ feelings about their looks have fluctuated, and in the first half of 2015 they’re not feeling as great as they could. Top 2 box agreement that “I am happy with the way I look” is down from a high of 55% in 2013 to just 47% this year.  Compare that to 61% of teen boys who are currently happy with their appearance, and the percentage seems even starker. 

Plus-size models NYFashionWeekIn this climate of acceptance of others—even as last month’s New York Fashion Week was inclusive of various sizes, shapes, combinations of features, and gender identities—our teen girls aren’t feeling as good about their looks as the adults who love them might hope. 

One marketer, Dove, has launched a new “Change One Thing” campaign that aims to move teen girls’ self-esteem needle in the right direction.  The spot features a series of teen girls, each speaking a wish for a different physical feature, followed by another teen girl with that desired feature, speaking her own wish.  The point is that, well, the grass is always greener the other side…in the looks department (reminding teen viewers that someone desperately wishes they could look like YOU).  The campaign is part of Dove’s overarching Campaign for Real Beauty, and consistent with its spots targeting adults, features layperson consumers, rather than professional models.  The new campaign also coincides with a Dove + Pinterest partnership in which 80 self-esteem boosting pins are available for teens. 

BitmojiAnother approach is to take real-life images out of the mix altogether.  Bitstrips, the online comic creation tool, allows teens (and adults) to create virtual avatars, usually with enough identifying features to look roughly like the creator.  The projection into cartoon style makes features less detailed, glossing over the one little thing that one might nitpick, and focusing on all of the things the creator loves about himself or herself.  Here, the author’s Bitmoji (a similar cartoon avatar, suitable for using in messages) delivers a positive self-affirmation. 

How can your brand help?  Closely examine every facet of your messaging to teens, especially girls.  What kind of standards of beauty are you promoting?  What kind of self-talk are you encouraging?  The village needs to pay more attention to these teen girls, who are still children.  Be a positive voice for them.

Tags: girls, Appearance, kids tweens teens market research, Dove, Teens, fashion, gender

5 Reasons Why Teens Love the Youngest Jenner Girls

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 04:09 PM

Kendall and Kylie Jenner

On the surface, Kendall and Kylie Jenner are not relatable in any sense of the word. They come from one of the most globally recognizable families in the world. They call an Olympic athlete their dad and a “Momager” their mom.  Kendall Jenner’s IMDB bio describes her as an “American socialite, television personality and model.” Kylie Jenner hangs with Will Smith’s son, movie star Jaden Smith. Their famous sisters (and half brothers) have had self-titled TV shows, and almost everyone in their family of drinking age is paid in the thousands of dollars for merely appearing at a party. Not to mention that their lives have been filmed and broadcast since the age of 10 (Kylie) and 12 (Kendall).

But despite the odds, they might have just become role models of a certain sort to today’s youth. What makes these girls the celebs of the moment goes beyond good marketing and a public platform that is arguably unrivaled (although those help). We think that they were far from destined to become today’s trendiest teens (with millions following them on Twitter). And while there are many reasons why adults might critique their particular brand of fame, we’re endlessly curious about the reasons why these girls have connected with today’s teens.

  1. They defy the script. Despite being part of the most scripted unscripted family of all time, the youngest Jenner sisters consistently seem to speak in a different tone, in a different way than their older counterparts. Kylie dyes her hair blue. Kendall prefers to portray herself as awkward and anti-social versus gregarious and polished. They publicly criticize their celebrity family (all the while, reassuring listeners that they’re all about familial love). They sometimes shun the camera (all the while, continuing to post selfies of all sorts).
  2. They eschew entitlement. Like their older sisters, these girls seem to engage in deals across multiple domains. But the image they’ve cultivated is one that suggests that they are workers. Beyond constantly praising the work ethic of their parents, they have served as “interns,” designers for a line at Pac Sun (who, in the “fashion” of the day, claim to be hands on, and they’ve written a fictional novel). Even Kendall’s recent success as a model feels like it’s fueled more by the kind of flow she gets from pursuing a lifelong passion (even though, in early episodes of the series, she buckled under the pressure her older sister put on her to take modeling classes).
  3. They have issues. But they have the right kind of issues – teen angst, sibling rivalry, a little bit of narcissism - but they’re not known for promiscuity, overindulgence, or insensitivity. Remember, their young fans are much more morally self-righteous than we might expect. Tweens, in particular,are quick to feel uncomfortable when their idols make ill-advised decisions.
  4. They care about creativity. They represent a kind of creative class of youth that feels both age-appropriate and consistent with the ethos of their cohort of youth. It’s unlikely that teens will read the countless scathing reviews of their newest endeavor, a novel entitled Rebels: City of Indra, and instead will see them as “authors” of a form that feels different than the memoirs of their famous sister and mother. They treat fashion with reverence that helps to elevate their occupation as “designers” and models to a respectable height. And their boho style, while fueled by designer labels, feels more earthy and relatable to today’s teen girls who see themselves as more creative than  luxury-laden. 
  5. They’re connected. It’s not just about tweeting or posting a never-ending stream of images on Instagram. They’re connected to each other – they come as a pair like so many popular kid and teen characters (remember Mary Kate and Ashley?). They are surrounded by people and have a built in social club in the form of their siblings. This reassurance that these stylish, attractive girls are also part of a larger team is critical to keeping them within reach. 

Tags: girls, parents, novel, Youth, Teens, fashion, TV, tweens, books

What a Tough Economy Tells Us About Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Teen Shopping SpendingBeing a teenager has always been tough, but according to a recent study on teen employment, a rough economy makes finding work more trying than ever for them.  The employment rate for teens ages 16-19 has fallen from 45% in 2000 to 26% in 2011 - the lowest employment rate for teens since World War II. 

While numerous studies suggest that teens are increasingly choosing to focus on school and forgo working, this study accounts for "underutilized" labor—teens that have part-time jobs, but want to work full-time and teens that aren't looking for work, but also want to be working full-time.  In other words, for teens who do want to work, the jobs just aren’t there. 

If you’re interested in gaining a clear picture of the lives of teens today, these findings contribute a crucial piece to the puzzle. But beyond simply describing the current state of affairs, we think this study should inspire some sound insights about the future of the youth market.  Of course, fewer teens working might mean less disposable income for this cohort, but it also means that how teens spend (and think about spending) will change.

So, what might the current economic crisis mean for the future of teen spending?

They will make education (even more of) a priority.  Staying in school has become increasingly important to teens and all Americans, but we predict that more teens will deliberately forgo working to continue with or focus on their education. These teens will seek out supplies to make their school years more productive. In other words, for marketers, think school is cool.

They will prioritize products with longevity.  Even though teens are looking for deals, they also want to get their money’s worth.  Products that last longer are increasingly more appealing to this economically challenged cohort.  Even the "coolest" product can get a bad reputation if it's known to have a short shelf life.  Don't be afraid to emphasize your product’s long-term potential.   

They will make shopping about more than just spending.  With less money to spend, teens might be avoiding retail stores more than their cohorts from previous generations.  And when they do browse, teens feel less obligated to spend on the spot than in the past. This might seem like bad news for marketers, but instead, we think this signals some unexpected opportunities. Acknowledge that the shopping experience is increasingly social – both in-store and online. Don’t despair if they’re window-shopping – getting in their consideration set should be considered the first and critical win with these savvy, strategic shoppers.

They will ponder their purchases more than ever before. Forget your image of the impulsive teen buyer. Teens have become more thorough and more thoughtful in their purchases. This is why it’s vital to facilitate the evaluation process through reviews, demos, etc. Encouraging teens to think about their purchases will show them that you value their time and respect their wallets. 

Tags: Youth, Teens, shopping, fashion, money

Frightening Fun

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

Happy HalloweenWith Halloween just a day away, it’s time to turn our attention to a specific kind of kid, tween and teen fun: frightening fun. In posts from previous Halloweens, we’ve made predictions about costumes and have made an argument for Halloween as the perfect kid holiday. Rather than writing about the shocking sophistication of little girls’ costumes (just try to find one that doesn’t involve a mini skirt!), or debating whether Breaking Bad characters are appropriate icons for elementary schoolers (or even younger) to emulate, we decided to turn our focus to the very nature of fright. We explored this in last year’s post, calling “the chance to be scared” one of the reasons why youth gravitate to Halloween, a day dedicated to trying on other personas and testing one’s own tolerance for terror. Getting a glimpse at ghouls, in all forms, and showing you can persevere is not simply socially beneficial (i.e., conveys that you’re brave) – it’s also a way for kids, tweens and teens to remind themselves of their own resilience.

Although funny costumes can’t go wrong for any of these age groups, scary looks are likely to rule the night on this Hallow’s Eve. From Royal Vampires to Zombie everything, the undead are “in” this holiday season. Are today’s kids, tweens and teens particularly macabre? Literature professor and smart satirist Regina Barreca suggests that “anxiety and fear are paradoxically often a product—not a failure—of being both astute and perceptive: The most fearful are often those with the most imaginative intelligences.” Given this assessment, it’s no surprise that fear strikes hard among youth, who might seem prone towards delusions of invincibility, but who are also smaller and less in control than many people around them. They live with uncertainty and risk – and even when they embrace it – it’s often despite, not because of, the hold that it has on them.  And their imaginations are highly tuned instruments for fighting fear through escape or transformation.

Scary fun and horror surely share some common ground. But knowing how to deliver frightening fun, versus just fright, can be the difference between appealing to most youth and to the small subset who find themselves drawn to true terror. Movies like Monsters Inc. or even old-school TV shows like Scooby Doo let kids unmask the silly ghost or confront the monster in the closet. Halloween specials like Toy Story Tale of Terror might make preschoolers jump, but it also shows them that Woody and his gang can once again triumph over “evil” – even if evil equals an eBay enthralled hotel manager who teaches his pet iguana to swipe toys! And this Halloween, zombie-lovers can take a turn at putting the undead in their place at 2013’s alt-haunted house: zombie paintball! For kids, tweens and teens, it’s the relief and the exhale after the scare that turns fear into frolic. This reassurance reminds them that they can confront and master mayhem, and that they can deal with their worries, not give into them. For brands, it’s important to understand that frightening fun matters and compels – but not to take it too far. For content creators, don’t deny kids, tweens and teens their fill of fear!

Tags: fashion, Halloween

Kids and Costumes: A Few Predictions

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 @ 02:25 PM

Gangnam Style’s Psy? Pregnant Snooki? Clint Eastwood’s Chair? Honey Boo Boo? Smirking Fab Five member?

These are likely to be some of the top costumes at Halloween parties this year – but probably not the parties that preschoolers or little kids will be attending. It’s a safe bet that a few preschool princesses will come to your door (perhaps of the Tangled or Brave variety this season) and that firefighters, superheroes and pirates will parade through your neighborhood. But beyond these timeless tropes, what’s new in the Halloween haute couture this year?Halloween Costume

  • Whether they’re working moms or just practical parents, most Halloween costumes we'll see on the streets will likely come from a store of some sort…At the higher price point, Pottery Barn Kids offers an artisan-looking collection of costumes from Where the Wild Things Are that help preschool parents provide a chance to play favorite-character, while feeling like they’re promoting the literary prowess. This brand also offers quirky costumes that seem to seek handmade simulation over sleek production – see their “paper doll” costume or their cardboard “house.” And while animals are always a Halloween favorite, this year’s batch, at PB Kids and Target, include creatures who haven’t been under-celebrated in the past…Hedgehogs and donkeys might lose out to lions and tigers, but their mere inclusion in the these stores’ selections suggest that parents are looking for something a bit more offbeat in their store-bought costumes. 
  • Speaking of quirky, Chasing Fireflies offers a watermelon fairy costume, alongside a goth “Tragedy Ann.” This brand’s offerings are certainly differentiated versus the competition (Vampire of Versailles costume for your little guy?), but they may have missed the mark. This parent targeted catalog seems to be skipping sentimentality in their offerings, which might be off-putting to parents who strive to steer their little kids and even bigger kids towards good, clean fun.
  • In contrast, superheroes (especially the  Avengers, but also Spiderman) fit the bill for boys this year (as well as last year). Variations on this theme abound, but we have no doubt that many youth will slip into some version of the quintessential cape and mask on Hallow’s Eve. If birthday party themes are any indication of the kinds of properties that preschoolers love (and we think they are) than our YouthBeat Jr. data might hold some clues to Halloween’s top costumes: Disney Classics (Mickey and Minnie), Princesses, and LEGOs.
  • For parents who prefer the commercial-free look, but don’t have the skills or the time to do it themselves, Etsy helps them accomplish their goals. Parents can get the authentic handmade look without putting in the labor – and this marketplace is full of stay-at-home-moms willing to monetize their costume-making skills for those who can’t or who choose not to do it themselves.
  • And what about tweens and teens? Look for Katniss braids on girls, along with a few Olympians. For the boys, athletes are always a mainstay among guys who know that dressing up like your favorite player protects you from making the wrong choice. Will we see any Wanted or One Direction homages? Tough to say – we don’t expect too many boys to take on these personas, but perhaps we’ll see a few female “number one fans” knocking at our doors.

What’s your best bet on the costumes that will connect with youth (and their parents) this year?

Tags: preschool, play, Youth, fashion, culture, youth media, Halloween

Mom Confidence: What Back to School Ads Really Sell

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 10, 2012 @ 11:59 AM

With summer winding down, back-to-school advertising has come on full force. According to the National Retail Federation, $83 billion will be spent for back-to-school 2012, and the fight for those dollars has already begun. Retailers have been on air with messaging about new jeans, school supplies, and lunchbox fare for weeks. Brands have begun to release reminders that the choice of gluestick and even sticky-note matter…

describe the imageEven though a Yahoo webinar from April 2012 suggested that back-to-school advertisers should remember that back-to-school shopping isn’t all about moms (“23% of dads and 84% of teens say they're getting more involved in back-to-school shopping; 80% of those in charge of making back-to-school purchases say their children influence what's actually bought”), it seems that back-to-school ads are taking some typical approaches to tantalizing parent purchasers. Despite different approaches, most seem to adopt, as an underlying premise, that winning the back-to-school battle is all about instilling confidence in mom. Sure, you could do that by showing her how much she’ll save. But what fun would that be? Here’s how some of the most aired campaigns are making moms feel like she’s too cool for school…

  1. Reminding her that she was cool once…Beverly Hills 90210 might have found a new audience with this generation of teens, and Jenny Garth might even play a role, but none of their dramas will top that moment when Kelly Taylor faced the ultimate choice: Dylan McKay or Brandon Walsh? This moment is played out in Old Navy’s back-to-school advertising, perhaps to persuade mom shoppers that high school hasn’t changed. Or more likely, Old Navy has realized that their brand of tongue-in-cheek humor makes the mom shopper more comfortable, than, say, Abercrombie? Old Navy seems to be positioning itself as the place for parents to purchase, leaving the teen-with-a-wallet crowd to spend somewhere else. 
  2. Old people icons…And by old, we mean over 18…Target, once again, plays with the juxtaposition between cool and kitsch, high and low, high-style and highly practical that define their brands. In their back-to-school campaign, ordinary objects like rulers come together to form guitars…Back-to-school shopping takes on the event-like status of a Lady Gaga concert….And actors who would likely (hopefully) only be recognizable to parents are used in a commercial that could seemingly get kids bopping. The guy from Bridesmaids? Sure, he should be selling jeans to kids for back-to-school. But lest you think we don’t like this idea, let us be clear: Target (like Old Navy) is letting moms and dads in on the fun.
  3. Schoolhouse rock. Well before Glee, JC Penney had made school look like a Broadway show. Once again, advertisers seem to be softening the blow of returning to the books by re-imagining school as a stage. For parents, who perhaps fantasize about their children as confident, bubbly students, strutting and giggling through their days, these images might comfort. Will kids, tweens and teens buy-in? Payless has raced past the first day right to the fantasy field trip, with its spot (using a They Might Be Giants tune that might make parents wonder where they heard those voices before) that features frolicking kids who delight in dino exploration. There are no lines or rules for these happy-kids. And this seems to be just what parents have in mind as they purchase pants with reinforced knees, or hoodies that promise to hold up for the whole year.
  4. Mom’s make it better. In contrast with showing all of these confident kids, dancing their way through the classroom doors, 3M chooses another approach to instilling moms with the confidence that they can make back-to-school better. In their ad, a shy, sweet little girl tentatively scans her new class…It’s not until she opens her lunchbox to find a sticky-note of reassurance that she drops her shoulders and lets her grin spread.

Will their approaches work? It’s likely they’ll win a share of the back-to-school booty. But while it’s too soon to tell, we predict that they’re leaving some kid, tween and teen influenced purchases on the table.

Tags: Education, mom, shopping, fashion, parenting, school

Summer Camp for the Connected Cohort

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 @ 02:05 PM

It may not be time just yet for summer camp, but it is that time of year when parents begin planning, or putting down deposits. And for today’s parents, summer camp is no longer just about giving kids, tweens and teens a taste of the great outdoors…First, for many working parents, camp is a necessity, not a luxury. It fills in the summer gap for working parents who head to the office, even when the weather warms up. In a highly competitive educational context, in which youth and their moms and dads begin to express concern over college admissions before they’ve even hit high school, many see summer as a way to catch up and to get a step ahead. At the same time, schools have been hit with federal, and in almost every case, state budget cuts that have taken a toll on the extracurricular programs that give kids, tweens and teens a chance to find their passion. So it’s no surprise that summer camps cater to a broader group of youth – who are attending for different reasons – than ever before. And summer camp creators offer no shortage of options when it comes to summer camp.thrill logo

Take note: some of these camps involve very little interaction with the outdoors, but if a kid finds their “flow” at comic book camp versus canoeing, is that such a bad thing? At the same time, are we missing something by keeping kids, tweens and teens in school-like environments all year-round?

Regardless of where you stand on the indoor/outdoor debate, we think the following camps give us some indication of the signs of these times...They might be “no bug juice allowed!” and “email your parents here!”

  1. ThrillCoasterTours: Test your bravery by riding roller-coasters across the company (parents can catch that priceless pic on camp-photograph site, “bunk1.” And no cabins here – accommodations provided by Marriott.
  2. Surf Diva “Boarding” Camp: This all-girls camp takes to the waves, combining slumber party vibe with the kinetic curricula of a sports camp.
  3. Plantation Farm Camp: Want to inspire sustainability? Ship your kids to this California farm where they learn where their food really comes from…
  4. New York Film Academy: Because this generation doesn’t take pictures like tourists…this camp shows them how to become a professional cinematographer in just one simple summer.
  5. Digital Media Camp: Think summer camp is for getting your teen away from texting? Not so…this camp teaches them to develop their own apps!
  6. Camp Kennedy Space Center: The space program might be in limbo, but your kid can still lighten up in the no-gravity chamber.
  7. Engineering Camp: If building a robot gets your kid, tween and teen ticking, than these national engineering camps might be for them.
  8. Fashion Design Camp: For your budding fashionista or Project Runway devotee.
  9. Day Jams: Becoming a rock star might look as easy as posting a YouTube video, but this camp shows kids how to really get rockin’.
  10.  Bold Earth Adventures: More like a good-old-fashion survival of the fittest, these camps put youth out of their outdoor comfort zone, and promise to teach them about themselves along the way.

Tags: kids, girls, play, Sports, outside, Youth, fashion, kids tweens teens, culture, parenting

What Tween Brands Can Learn From Boy Bands

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 @ 01:05 PM

From the Beatles and the Monkees, to Menudo, Boyz II Men and New Edition, to *NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees, and most recently, the Jonas Brothers, it would seem that boy bands are nothing new. Far from surprising, the recent re-emergence of a new crop of boy bands signals a return to a recognizable place. It might be easy to dismiss wannabe sensations like One Direction (who may have made it on the radar of adults-without-tween-girls-living-in-their-homes on Saturday Night Live, when they served as musical guest), as the end of the artist as we know it. Afterall, these groups are often not shy about their one directioncommercial ambitions or the way in which they were brought together by youth-savvy producers and industry moguls. But regardless of what you think of their music or their highly choreographed dance moves, understanding the appeal of boy bands (“then” and “now”) provides invaluable insight into what a tween girl wants…So what can brands and organizations do to access some of that boy band appeal? 

  1. Focus on cute, not cool. Who says nice guys never win? And who says that being aloof makes you more admirable? Not tween girls. Boy bands can come off as cloying to adults, but for tween girls, they are just like candy – sweet, easy to consume, and inviting. As an Irish newspaper, talking about One Direction noted, Justin Bieber had reminded everyone that there was still a market for "clean cut, wholesome, middle class, parent-friendly pop: cute boys advocating puppy love.” When it comes to their fashion sense, their sounds, or their personal style, they are rarely edgy, and often startlingly sweet. And for tweens who are moving into music for the first time, these boy bands serve as starter artists – who don’t make you work too hard to get them.
  2. Give girls different faces, within the same frame. Go to any middle school playground in America and you’re likely to see groups of tweens girls wearing, what seems to be, the exact same outfit, with such subtle differences that the average adult is likely to gloss over them. Not so for the tween girls, who will proudly distinguish among their group of friends – she’s the one who likes blue…She’s the girly one, so her Tom’s shoes have the sparkles (as opposed to everyone else’s Tom’s shoe that don’t). Boy bands have this down to a science. There’s the scruffy one, the born leader, the mama’s boy (although they’re all a bit over-the-top about their love for their mamas!), and the shy one. There’s the preppy one, the fashion fiend, the “rocker” and the sports savant. The result: everyone in your group can participate, but you can match your guy with your own personal style.
  3. Focus on friendship. Why, you might be asking, is it always a band? Perhaps it’s because of the synchronized dancing (like line dancing and cheerleading routines) that makes dance moves feel so formulaic that they can imagine themselves executing them with enough practice? But more importantly, these guy groups present the ultimate tween girl fantasy: friendship. At a time when tweens are trying with all their might to untangle the web that can be tween girl relations, watching a gang of guys make it look so easy gives them hope! While a group like One Direction, who admittedly came together at the urging of X Factor judge/producer Simon Cowell, even better are the stories (authentic or exaggerated) of a group of true friends from the neighborhood who have had each others’ backs for a long time. 
  4. Don’t assume caring is corny. As any youth brand knows, once you crossover to corny, it’s hard to come back. But, what teens might dismiss as dumb, tweens will often embrace with enthusiasm. Teens might reward artists and brands that seem to be so casual as not to care, tweens appreciate effort. Caring about your fans (and even about their parents!) isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of niceness. And when it comes to boy bands, nice guys finish first.
  5. It’s about the girls, not about the group. Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about the crazes and fevers that develop surrounding boy bands is that it’s all about them. Despite all that hair gel, and their inevitable entourages, tween girls are often left with the impression that these guys would give it all up if it meant dissing their fans. Boy bands don’t put themselves on a pedestal; they put their fans on one (at least from girls’ perspectives).  We see this in their ballads – which are less about relationships and more about reiterating how special, pretty and altogether lovely their love interests are.

Finally, it would be hard to talk about boy bands without acknowledging that tweens have a much higher tolerance than most targets for ubiquity – it’s hard to become overexposed with tweens! But know that the brighter the flame, the faster the fizzle…So brands might want to borrow from the boy bands’ strategy tool box, but make sure that they think about their next hit before the craze has hit crescendo

Tags: girls, boys, free time, fashion, culture, youth media, Justin Bieber

What Wishlists Tell Us About Tweens

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 @ 11:47 AM

In our last few blogs, we have been looking at our YouthBeat age groups through the lens of their top wishlists items for this year.  If you’re shopping for a tween, you know that being “in the middle” – navigating the treacherous territory between the safe haven of childhood and the risky waters of the teen years – makes for a complex and sometimes confused wishlist for the holidays. Right around 11 years old, we often hear parents of boys and girls complain that their children no longer have a go-to store, and there “asks” have become alarmingly few and far between…Sounds like a nice problem to have? Perhaps, but parents of tweens know that their children still have high expectations for their holiday hauls, and they also know that tweens’ lack of locution doesn’t mean they don’t have strong opinions about what they want. So, below is our best attempt to help these moms and dads out!

  1. If you need a tween shopping heuristic for the holidays, think child-like Taylor Swiftfun with a sophisticated twist. This lead us to a whole category that has served as a timeless turn-to for the tween set…Back in the late 80s, I remember, fondly, wishing for a bottle of Coty’s “Exclamation” under my Christmas tree. For tween girls, dressing up and putting on a look still feels playful, more than purposeful, and perfume serves as the perfect entry point to the beauty business. This category, which plays to the senses without putting forth an overly adult look, lets tweens fantasize and day-dream without being too daring. Every holiday season, a number of new brands emerge, but this holiday, we’re betting on wonderfully girly “Wonderstruck,” by Taylor Swift, the romantically optimistic “Someday,” from Justin Bieber, and for the hello kittyironic older tween, Hello Kitty and Crayola (yep, Crayola!) sprays from quirky scent house, Demeter.
  2. This year, reading gets a rad makeover with EBooks making it on to tweens’ radar. Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color and the Kindle Fire may make for a new kind of scene – instead of tweens listening to their iPods together, we may see them side-by-side with their stylishly accessorized eReaders, downloading the latest installment of the Hunger Games or “Pretty Little Liars.” Although YouthBeat data suggests that tweens continue to prefer paper (with some industry experts hypothesizing that the buy-it-on-release-day mentality created by the Harry Potter Series has led this generation to take on a collectors’ level love of the hard cover version of their favorite reads), this year, we expect to see tweens take hold of this new technology to a greater degree than ever before. If eBooks are slightly too sophisticated (or pricey!) for your tween, take a chance on another kids/tween trend – making you the star of your own book or comic! U Star Novels puts your name into a novel, combining younger tweens’ love of customization with their desire to see their name in lights (or print).
  3. Nike might not seem like news to us, but for tweens, this brand continues to top their list for footwear, and for boys and fashion. NikeiD gives the traditional brand a tween test, allowing tweens to get an authentic and socially endorsed product, but one of their own making. Customizable fashion can tend to feel kiddish, but mostly because the big brands tend to lead versus follow tween style…And too much play makes for a product that tweens don’t feel comfortable displaying. But NikeiD, which allows tweens to take a gift card to a website and create their own bags, kicks, and sport watches which look more like a find than a fun arts and crafts project.

Next up, our final group – teens!

Tags: parents, movies, Taylor Swift, beauty, fashion, reading, holiday, tweens, Justin Bieber

Pirating The Principles Of Successful Youth Brands

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 @ 10:47 AM

Preschoolers, kids and tweens have been shivering their timbers, yo-ho-ho’ing and seeking out gold doubloons all spring and summer, making pirates the latest craze among youth.

Disney Jr.’s Jake and the Neverland Pirates has taken what could be a scary concept and made it preschool-friendly. It’s hard to find a preschooler right now who hasn’t taken to the adventures of “good pirates,” Jake, Izzy and little Cubby, making it the premier show on the newest network from the children’s entertainment powerhouse.

The fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides, has given Disney another hit among tweens, teens and their parents. Take a-listers Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and Geoffrey Rush, put them in a story as seductive to adults as it is fantastic to kids, and infuse it with wit and it’s no surprise why this franchise has put seeking treasure and sailing the high seas back on kids’ radar.

These properties and the general pirate craze has spawned or breathed new life into pirate experiences across the country. In Ocean City, NJ last week, kids Paul Frank Piratesattended Pirate School at the boardwalk, and throughout the spring, summer and into this fall, they’ll take a ride on an authentic pirate ship where they’ll get painted tattoos, drink “grog” (root beer to you landlubbers) and battle an enemy pirate with water cannons. In Buena Park, California, or Orlando, Florida, you can get the full pirate experience at the Pirate Dinner Adventure. And of course, Disney has capitalized on the pirate trend they re-inspired with The Pirates League. If getting styled like your favorite Princess isn’t your thing, get your face painted, grab a sword, and transform yourself into your inner swashbuckler. The pirate trend is good news for Paul Frank, who has played with this motif in his designs for years, and providing pirate paper plates was big business for Target, who sold out of this party pattern pretty quickly!

But what makes pirates work with youth, beyond an association with a few hit shows/movies? And how, as a marketer, can you tap into what these pirate properties know?

  1. Look to the classics...First, many great youth stories have been written. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan serve as inspiration for the most modern of seafarers. These tales survive the test of time because they pit good versus evil, take youth on journeys to exciting places, and test the characters’ mettle (letting kids vicariously test their own). It doesn’t hurt that the nice guys usually walk away with the loot.
  2. 2.       …But create concepts that grow. These themes are far from grounded in the needs of one age group. Instead, Disney has translated a commonly admired concept to suit the very different tastes and aesthetics of its differing audiences. Jake and the Neverland Pirates make villains more silly than scary, and The Pirates of the Carribean’s Jack Sparrow has an authentic edge that makes him appeal to even the most jaded teen.
  3. Make it sing! Like any good evergreen theme, this one comes with a soundtrack. For little kids, music is essential to making a property sticky…For adults, a few tongue in cheek drinking songs provide the comic relief that affirms the movie’s fun-loving side.
  4. 4.       Give them treasure – but make them look for it! A pirate may be only as interesting as the treasure that he seeks – and the one that alludes him. Just as youth love to be recognized and rewarded, and the fantasy of riches that could transform their lot in life is a fantasy that begins with babes, the pirates they admire have the drive to go for something that wiser souls might label a longshot. Sound like the state of childhood? Kids and tweens alike identify with characters that throw a little caution to the wind, and they revel in telling the more sober cynics “I told you so” when that wild goose chase yields some gold.
  5. Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously. Pirates can be serious stuff – and perhaps a few parents, a few years ago, were conflicted about the whole idea of pirates, once real pirates started to dominate the headlines – and they weren’t good guys in disguise. But these pirates show that the pirate life is fun for a while, and that beyond their thin veneer, even the most evil villains might be more vulnerable than vicious.

So when you’re thinking about your brand this summer, think, what would Jack Sparrow do? Drink a glass of grog and contemplate what evergreens are ripe for a reinvention…

Tags: movie, Youth, fashion, kids tweens teens