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

What Wishlists Tell Us About Kids

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 @ 11:16 AM

As part of our pre-holiday blog series, we’re taking a look at some of the most commonly recommended items from among the “top pick” lists of some of our favorite toy and gift sites. Last week, we looked at some of the most telling take-aways about preschooler products; this week, we look at some gifts that are sure to catch the attention and capture the imagination of kids.

Parents of 6-10 year olds (how YouthBeat defines “kids”), may be experiencing holiday hecticness for the first time. Christmas morning might be measured more by what’s not there than what is…This isn’t to say that kids can’t delight in a surprise or two, but it gets harder and harder to impress these elementary schoolers, and more difficult to satisfy the many demands on their wishlists. In the past few years, we’ve heard more and more parents of this age group bemoan the high ticket price of the items that children expect. Even if a few high-priced gifts fit into Santa’s budget, most parents and kids fantasize about frolicking in wrapping paper, or at least, spending a long morning mulling through mounds of gifts! And kids this age ask for specific brands and models more than in the past, so relatives and reindeer alike are forced to embark on more strategic searches than ever before… 

The following products seem to embody the holiday hopes of kids in 2011:

  1. LEGO Star Wars makes the evergreen kid brand a must-have (once again) for kids. LEGO has infiltrated almost every category that touches kids’ lives – video games, board games, and even LEGO TV. And according to YouthBeat data, even reading about LEGO is fun! LEGO Magazine ranks at the top of kids’ list of favorite magazines for the first half of 2011. But it’s the simple sophistication of these “loose parts” that continue to catalyze the imagination of youth. With STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) serving as the new buzz in education, parents are more willing than ever before to buy toys that inspire their future architect or astronaut. And they can feel good about the plug-free, signal-free and battery-free form that these classic toy sets take! But this is only half of the story…Star Wars is the set seducing kids this year. This movie still ranks as kids’ top of all time, according to our most recent wave of YouthBeat data. The story of good over evil, brought to the latest generation via Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars, not only makes for a great narrative, but also lends itself to techy gadgets – even in a low tech form.
  2. Classic toys have been all the rage the last few years, with parents being inundated with catalogs from companies that specialize in re-makes of toys that they recognize from their youth, brands re-issuing modernized versions of the old standards, and old games and toys getting a makeover. One of the toy that will surely hit parents’ radar, even if it might be a bit young for kids, is Connect 4 Launch from Hasbro. This latest edition of the game (that was once seen as an innovative answer to the boring way we used to play checkers and tic tac toe), gets kids up and moving while they play, and adds a few gadgets in for good measure. Hasbro has sought to bring back family game night for many years now, and this old-school game with a new-school twist might represent the right way to do it for headphonestoday’s family. Or it might just be more fun for kids to play together – afterall, chucking your checkers at the game board gives them permission to play a little subversively under the guise of good old-fashioned fun.
  3. Kids might not connect with music the same way tweens are beginning to and teens always have. But this year, one of the most unexpected categories to make a comeback is headphones! And bucking other technology trends, these headphones haven’t gotten smaller, more portable – they’ve gotten bigger! The ones shown here, from Skull Candy, conceal the whole ear. They let kids (and tweens, and teens) cocoon while they tune in (and for kids, that’s as likely to be tuning in to a TV show on their portable DVD player or their parents’ laptop as it is to music). These statement sound-surrounders show that just when you thought kid products were moving in one direction, youth take a turn for the bigger.Ugly Dolls
  4. And finally, Ugly Dolls demonstrate one of our tenets of great youth brands: they live in the middle. Or more appropriately, they negotiate two seemingly contrary ideas to create a product or experience that intrigues and inspires as much as it invites. And what two concepts could make for a less likely mash-up than “ugly” and “doll”? These characters that only a kid-playing-a-mother could love give girls permission to cuddle and care in a way that doesn’t make them feel babyish themselves.  Many models of these dolls make them ready-made for the always ready-to-collect kid.  Aesthetically, these dolls not only trade in cute for quirk, but they also demonstrate the almost-homemade look that seems to characterize many of kids’ latest loves (even thought the brand has been recognized by industry insiders since 2006, when it was named the 2006 Specialty Toy of the Year by the Toy Industry of America).

Next up: top items for tweens!

Tags: kids, shopping, holiday, parenting, money

What Wishlists Tell Us About Youth

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Dec 05, 2011 @ 01:15 PM

It would be more than safe to say that the turkey and cranberry sauce had barely passed our lips when the 2011 holiday season began. But in truth, this year, the winter holidays seemed to step on the heels of Halloween! As it has for the past few years, the sport that is Black Friday continued to dominate the headlines, with workers protesting Thanksgiving evening openings, retailers desperately trying to control  crowds bursting through their doors in a 5 am deluge by staying open all night. But like the many Americans who made Cyber Monday – the armchair quarterback version of the previous Friday’s shopping sprint – the biggest in its short history, we prefer to shop online.

TV advertising of youth-targeted trinkets seems to be surging in this period (although it’s still too soon to tell how this year will compare to last), but when shopping for youth, many parents and gift-givers will rely on the implied expertise of websites to provide them with age-appropriate recommendations for every child or teen on their list. In some ways, these search engines serve as virtual concierges, curators and, in the least, filters – helping gift-givers get it right, and more importantly, avoid getting it horribly wrong this holiday season. Whether it’s gifts.com, yoyo.com (the newest addition to the family born of diapers.com) or the online shops of bricks and mortar stores like Toys R’ Us, the items they recommend are sure to synch up with the biggest buys of the season. So we’ve taken some of the most commonly recommended items for each of the four age groups (preschoolers, kids, tweens and teens) and took a look at what they say about them, and why they stand out from the crowd…

In this post, we’ll focus on a few of the products that pop for preschoolers, with our take on the most recommended kid, tween and teen products to follow in the next few posts.

Preschoolers

For parents of preschoolers, the holidays might still feel more magical than manic. Preschoolers are just coming into their own asks, but can clearly imagine and fantasize what gifts they might get on Christmas morning or on the nights of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. But they’re also easily surprised and parents can still delight them with items of their own choosing…Of course, many parents put educational products under the tree, but they’re also paying attention to their children’s budding passions (be it of the princess, pirate, or super hero variety) and looking to give them the goods that will get the biggest reaction when the bows come of the packaging.

In 2011, three products serve as symbols of the preschool market right now:Let’s Rock Elmo

  1. Let’s Rock Elmo follows in the distinguished tradition of Elmo automatons, which have managed to entertain many parents and kids in equal measure. Tickle Me Elmo may have caused a craze many holiday seasons ago (and could be seen as one of the products that, unexpectedly, started the habit of parents behaving badly in the face of toy scarcity on Black Friday), but this latest rendition seems to capture both the sweet essence of the lovable Sesame Street monster, and the precocious attitude that is increasingly ascribed to the preschool set. Preschool fashion has gone edgier (and even mainstream brands like Carter’s feature a line of products that shout “Mom Rocks” or “Dad’s a Rockstar” from 3T- and 4T- sized shirts).  This year, Let’s Rock Elmo will face-off with Rockstar Mickey, bound to be another top pick among parents of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. May the best icon win!
  2. Today’s parents of preschoolers are as likely to blog about their little boys and girls as they are about their own passions. Between sharing their best shots on photo sites like Picasso (Picasso.com), and capturing their every move on their cell phones, it’s no surprise that one of this year’s hottest heists lets preschoolers put their own stamp, quite literally, on the pics they take. Fisher Price’s Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera puts photography in preschoolers’ little hands, and allows them to take a picture of these little narcissists’ (which we say with affection!) favorite person, themselves, with a lens they can turn to face them. Once they’ve caught a great pic of their mom, for example, they can accessorize right on screen…Suddenly dad dons a cartoon cowboy hat on his head, or their cousin wears a clown wig. Vtech offers the Kidizoom, but we think the added assurance that the Fisher Price version can stand up to the rough play that makes us love the preschoolers with whom we reside will appeal to parents.
Whenever we talk about an age group as a whole, we inherently minimize the many differences – particularly in the consumptions habits and attitudes – of the very different types of parents who have children of any given age group. The new line of products from eco-brand Seedlings may make for a great gift from parents who prefer to buy their preschoolers do-it-yourself products with a seemingly nostalgic simplicity. With products like “make your own family” dolls, that invite girls and boys alike to turn works of art into actionable objects (not just display pieces), this brand capitalizes on parents’ desire to foster their little kids’ creative instincts, these totally self-contained craft kits (with many – like make your own car, or decorate your own magic wand - also available from Melissa and Doug) might also make family fun night a bit easier to plan.

Tags: Youth, shopping, dad, kids tweens teens, holiday, money

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: The Cost of Forgetting Young Fans

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:45 AM

As a Phillies fan, it’s a bit difficult to write about baseball right now. But the World Series goes on, and it seemed like the perfect time for a YouthBeat blog on the state of bringing kids to big games.

We’re certainly not the first to bemoan the high cost of taking today’s kids to professional sporting events (see this blogger’s recap of the costs associated with taking her Chicagoland kids to Wrigley for the first time). Back in 2008, the average cost of an outing at Fenway Park was just under $50 per person – for tickets alone. But high ticket prices are just one of a number of deterrents…Many stadiums have family-friendly sections, but the risk of exposing little kids to adult language and “themes” at a game make many parents think twice before bringing their children to the park. And baseball might be the professional league that’s the friendliest to young fans (with some newer stadiums including fantastic playgrounds designed for little fans, like the Phanatic Phun Zone at the Phillies home field, Citizens Bank Park). Game times seem to make catching a game tough for workiYouth Insights on Baseballng parents, school kids and those with reasonable bedtimes (start times for a variety of sports often approach 8pm).

Does it matter that young fans have a tougher time getting in the gates today? Maybe not…After all, adults engage in many behaviors that they aren’t privy to as children. Children don’t necessarily rehearse all of their adult experiences during their pre-teen years, so it’s not a given that losing today’s youth will mean the loss of adult fans when this generation ages up. And go to a Philly suburb, or to downtown Chicago, or to Boston or New York or St. Louis, and you’re likely to wonder whether clothing stores stock items other than team jerseys.

But we think the risk, and more importantly, the lost opportunity to engage with youth deserves attention. First, pro sports aren’t the only game in town. Youth and their parents, in many markets, have begun to trade-out their trips to the big leagues for more family-friendly minor league games (the cost, for a family of four is just $57.50 on average, according to BizOfBaseball). College sports have an inherent appeal to kids, tweens and teens who often find the unpaid and much younger athletes more relatable. And alternatives to the traditional pro sports (think Arena Football) might chip away at enough of the young fan base to make the next group of adults think twice before professing their loyalty to the local football, basketball or baseball team.

The risk might be great, but the opportunity might be greater…We know that today’s families cherish family time more than ever. Parents seek out spaces that cater to their children, restaurants that feel family-friendly without sacrificing fun (for parents or kids!), and experiences that allow them to bond and build memories in the sometimes limited time they have to spend together. And with childhood obesity continuing to count high on parents’ lists of top concerns, parents would welcome the chance to expose their children to athletes who take their health seriously.

We’re not writing anything that the leagues themselves, and team owners, don’t know. The Philadelphia 76ers’ new owners took drastic action in their first days in charge: slashing ticket prices on nearly 9,000 seats and establishing the website NewSixersOwner.com to solicit fan feedback. All the major leagues continue to court a younger audience through pro-social initiatives that support little leaguers and children in need of safe spaces to play. New arenas include more amenities for young families than ever before.

But still, the lesson to take from this change in the face of the fan base of major sports is one that brands in many categories should heed: kids today matter in the decisions their families make. And while they might grow up and grow into new brands and experiences, regardless of what they did during childhood, they might also redefine the “norm” for their own generation. And if you’re not willing to invest in them, someone else will.

Tags: play, parents, Sports, free time, parenting, tweens, money

Beauty Rules for Today’s Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 @ 09:42 AM

Refreshing themes from her 2001 best-seller, Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty: Everything You Need to Look Pretty, Natural, Sexy and Awesome, Bobbi Brown recently released her newest beauty bible, Beauty Rules: Fabulous Looks, Beauty Essentials, and Life Lessons.Bobbi Brown

In an interview in the LA Times, Brown makes her main message to teens explicit:

“That you are and can be amazing. You have to realize it, then you have to know a few tips and tricks. Everything from being kind to eating healthy – to basically do the right thing. Be who you are.” Sounds easy.

On the Today Show, Brown interviewed a group of teen girls on what they love or don’t love about their looks. When one girl admitted she hated her nose, Brown made her turn to profile. “It looks like you bought that nose!” she reassured with a compliment that makes sense to today’s teens, who know the high price paid for botox, surgery and liposuction. And then came a more complex question from one of the teen panelists:

“So why do you need to wear make-up?” To which Brown responded with a canned, although simultaneously authentic response about 'making you the best you possible.'

This kind of question should come as no surprise. In her still-astute and relevant 1997 history of beauty, “The Body Project,” Joan Jacobs Brumberg notes that as early as pre-World War I, women were taught that “being a better person meant paying less attention to the self.” And while today’s teens have been raised in a post-girl power culture, they still struggle with the lived experience that looks matter. In fact, YouthBeat data from the first half of 2010 finds that only 21% of teens strongly agree that they are “happy with the way [they] look.” (Note, this is up slightly from 2009, when only 18% agreed).

So have we gone nowhere, baby? Well, today’s teens know to challenge these notions of feminine ideals. They resist, in subtle and not so subtle ways, conforming to the images of beauty that they see on screen and on the pages of their magazines. But more often than not, they’re still looking for a few good beauty tips.

Tags: bobbi brown, beauty, Youth, Teens, shopping, makeup, money

Overheard in a Home Depot: Are Kids Taking Over Your Home?

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 @ 10:57 AM

“It’s called Twilight!” the tween girl standing next to me told her mother, in a high drama, OMG kind of voice.

This was the weekend, and I was not behind the glass watching a mom-kid pair or a focus group. I was in the paint section at Home Depot and upon hearing the magic word my Robert Pattinson radar kicked in. My husband, sensing what was up, took my toddler son to the next aisle and left me to listen in.

“This one’s called ‘sexy’ she giggled – clearly trying to shock her mother, who clearly had been shocked too many times to react. With practiced practicality, the mom ignored her daughter and simply suggested a slightly less bold paint color. The negotiation began.

“I really feel like I’ll be most comfortable if it’s the color I love (Note to reader: that color would be “sexy”). And this is my room so I have to be comfortable, right?”

It seems today’s kids, tweens and teens have been taught, by example, by the media and by pop psychology that environment matters. And retailers haven’t missed their cue. Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel saw an opportunity to develop room décor for this style-savvy set with stores like Pottery Barn Kids and PBTeen, as well as Crate and Barrel’s sister store, Land of Nod. And while directing its messages to parents more than kids, Restoration Hardware recently got into the youth home goods game with its new line of Baby and Toddler furniture.

But proving that kids, tweens and teens have influence beyond these boutiques designed for them, Home Depot’s paint display included snapshots of picture perfect children’s rooms alongside images of  Martha Stewart inspired showrooms. When my family rejoined me, I noticed that my son was “playing” with a paint sample – in the shape of mouse ears. He proudly showed me his new “book,” which was really a brochure for Disney paints. He noted that one of these fantasy spaces included a little car just like one that he has at home.Disney Paint Room

For today’s youth, who have grown up watching deserving kids get decked out rooms on Extreme Home Makeover, or who watched their own version of Trading Spaces (Boys versus Girls) on Saturday morning television, this penchant for paint and obsession with getting their rooms just right isn’t a surprise. If you catch HGTV, you’ll notice an increased emphasis on the crafting of kid spaces – with some shows, like Colour Confidential, letting kids get on the act by picking paint colors and weighing in on what their walls will wear. And with more and more kids watching the Food Network and taking cooking classes in cities and suburbs across the country, it’s no wonder that kids are out to conquer the next domestic frontier. Or, if not conquer, at least make it their own.

But will parenDisney Paint Colorsts indulge their kids’ requests for real – and really costly – renovations to their rooms? It’s likely that kids will continue to have free reign over things traditionally chosen by kids for their rooms: posters and novelty pillows, bedspreads and tchotkes. And for some, coloring their walls to match their mood – or their favorite fantasy – might be the next step in designing the world of their dreams.

Tags: kids, mom, Twilight, Youth, Teens, shopping, Home Depot, money

Toy Story 3: Why Teens are Buzzing

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 @ 01:43 PM
It wasn't that long ago that kid movies were for kids. Adults suffered through them, while they tried to remind themselves that the smile on their child's face was enough entertainment.

But these days, kids' movies are a family affair. And some recent releases from Pixar - notably Oscar winning Up! - seem to be made more for moms than for the mini set. Perhaps most surprising, teens don't see kids' movies as babyish or boring, but as a sound option for a Saturday night out. 

For Toy Story 3, the appeal to teens rests not only in a great story, but in the sentimental pull of a saga that started righToy Story 3t when they were entering childhood. The first installment hit theaters in 1995, when today's teens were still toddlers. And Pixar acknowledges the history behind the story in a heart-wrenching trailer where we watch Andy grow up alongside his audience. If you're a mom of a little boy - 2 or 22 - grab your Kleenex before watching the Toy Story 3 trailer.

While the toys are still the heroes of Toy Story 3, the catalyst is not a kid, but rather a soon-to-be college student. Just like many of the franchise's first fans, Andy is moving away from home, separating from the place and the things that feel comfortable and heading into the great unknown. While the themes of belonging, growing and exploring are evergreens in kid culture, we can't help but think these real points of teen tension will resonate with a much older audience than its animated look would lead us to believe.

But will college students find their ways to the theater? And will teens choose Toy Story 3 over equally retro riffs like Karate Kid or teen's own Twilight?

Pixar hasn't taken this audience for granted. Beginning in April, Pixar screened a self-described "Special Cliffhanger Edition" of Toy Story 3 at 80 colleges in 22 states. The film whet the appetite of many a college consumer, and - if the blogosphere is any proof - Pixar succeeded in building the buzz. And perhaps more importantly, Pixar acknowledged that the generation that grew up alongside these mesmerizing toys wants to feel like they're part of the production - not just part of the consumption.

Adding to Toy Story 3's teen cred is its writer: Mike Arndt who won the Academy Award for the indie-gone-mainstream hit, Little Miss Sunshine. We can't speak for college students, but we kind of hope Buzz Lightyear picks up a copy of Proust, or Woody wiggles to Super Freak.

We're not sure how Toy Story 3 will fare in these first few days of summer cinema season, but we're betting on its success. As one teen we know wrote on his Facebook page, "Move over kids, I've been waiting for the next Toy Story for 11 years!!"


Tags: kids, parents, movie, family, Youth, Teens, tweens, money

Fickle or Foodie: What is – and Should Be – the Future of Kid Food?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 @ 04:49 PM
In a recent NY Times article by Susan Domus, Looking Past the Children's Menu, New York restaurateur Nicola Marzovilla asserts his belief that kids have the same right to couture cuisine as their parents - and that children's menus, with their cheaper, less interesting fare should be banished.

Marzovilla's rant is less about curmudgeonry and more about culture. If we acknowledge that food is more than just fuel, but rather symbolic - sustenance for the soul - than we have to agree with him. Steering kids towards chicken fingers, hamburgers and grilled cheese (regardless of the genre of food featured at the restaurant), the logic would go, not only deprives them of exploring taste, but also takes away their chance to experience different cultures. And for kids, tweens and teens today, it seems that knowing how to handle a menu is a necessary skill. (54% of elementary school aged kids buy lunch at school.)

Furthermore, this article made us ask: should we be catering (no pun intended) to our kids' in-progress taste buds, or should we be pushing them towards more sophisticated fare?

Many parents we talk to extol the virtues of having kids try new things, but our YouthBeat survey results show that kids continue to eat the basics over more complicated foods. While we've heard more than one city kid request a Dragon Roll or choose a spot that features Chicken Tikka Masala over chicken nuggets, only 1% of kids, 2% of tweens and 2% of teens in our survey reported eating sushi in the previous day. Compare this to 51% of kids (1st through 5th graders) eating cereal, 27% eating white bread and 21% eating apple sauce and it's clear that kids across the country aren't quite keeping up with their city counterparts. 

But as many parents know, and most marketers have found, sometimes it's just easier to give kids what they want. In fact, some of the biggest brands in the food category have built their business oKids Menun the notion that kids, tweens and teens can and should have food that they want - food that's developed with their needs in mind. Nutritionists might argue that this recipe could lead to disaster, but we can also point to categories in which healthy foods became kid staples with a little help from licensed characters and from simplifying adult styles (think classic example, yogurt to GoGurt). And more and more restaurants are making moms and dads happy by taking into account the needs of the whole family. Credit McDonald's with kick-starting this trend by offering mom a bonus salad for taking the troupe to PlayPlace.

And more restaurants (even in foodie feeding grounds like Brooklyn!) are taking a turn towards getting the littlest diners to lick their lips. And we think this is smart business - more and more parents report that they go out to eat because it's "fun for the whole family" (41% of parents of elementary school kids, and the number one reason, according to YouthBeat data), not to teach a lesson. Today's parents are likely to tote their toddlers along to adult restaurants rather than leaving them at home with take-out and a sitter. Shouldn't we make the experience easier for them, and more in line with how today's togetherness-focused families really dine?

We think the truth and the future probably lie somewhere in the middle. Getting kids to test exotic foods can be an uphill climb - and a battle that parents will probably resist. At the same time, challenging kids (and marketers!) to take a chance on new tastes might make meals a bit more interesting for kids, tweens and teens, and might make the job of food innovators and menu maestros a bit more fun! And perhaps families will find ways to bond over shared food as much as shared interests. Or in the least, food won't stand in the way of families dining the way they want to: less fine dining and more just feeling fine.

Tags: food, kids, parents, mom, menu, restaurant, tweens, money

Letting Kids and Tweens Get Silly

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Jun 11, 2010 @ 10:02 AM

Silly Bandz are hardly news at this point, but it seems that they continue to engage kids and captivate bloggers! We spoke about Silly Bandz at Silly Bandzthe Youth and Family Mega Event in May, and at the risk of adding clutter to the conversation, here’s our POV… 

For those of you who don’t know, a quick primer on the latest collecting craze…Silly Bandz hit our radar back in March when the little bracelets had just begun to translate into full-on fad in little towns and big cities across the U.S. These rubbery rings have been flying off shelves of the toy stores where they tend to be sold. The bracelets come in packs of 24 and come in thematic packs: princess, pets, dinosaurs and rock bandz, to name a few. And the trade-worthy trinkets have inspired so much excitement that many schools have prohibited them from the playground.

As Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst has said, “In a high-tech era when children want iPods and iPads and Wii games, it’s refreshing to see something as simple as this get their attention. This is the lowest of technologies.” So why are today’s tuned-in and wired/wireless kids so intrigued?

First, collecting sits right at the sweet spot for kids and tweens. For kids, who I am is still expressed best by what I have – the brands I wear, the stuff I show off on the shelves in my room, and of course, the collections I’ve acquired. For kids, stuff is good. And having stuff that others want – that has value beyond the sum of its parts – is really good. Perhaps even better than having something for keeps is having the ability to use what you’ve got to get to the next level (i.e., a more coveted bracelet). Collecting Data

Second, Silly Bandz speak directly to the in-between stage that older kids and younger tweens are entering. Kids still love to play. While we tend to think of kids wanting buttons and flashing lights, they can still find fun in simpler things. But society increasingly makes toys taboo and babyish. Silly Bandz allow kids/tweens to show off their style sensibilities while keeping their secret. Grouped on their arms, these bracelets look like mere fashion accessories. Remove them and you can appreciate the play value inherent in dinosaur or truck shapes. Fashion meets action figures in an age-appropriate way.

Finally, Silly Bandz illustrate the scarcity principle – even moreso as bans take hold. The harder it is to find one of these bracelets, the more collectible it becomes. And with parents and teachers helping to fuel their “forbidden fruit” nature, they’re likely to maintain their sizzle through the summer.

And probably most of all, Silly Bandz show us that old ideas are often good ones when it comes to tweens. Silly Bandz don’t differ too much from the bands of the past: jelly bracelets (which, you may recall, became controversial because of the sexually explicit meaning that teens tied to different colored bracelets), friendship bracelets, and charm bracelets. It seems that each generation of kids makes this trend their own, but with their entire world turning towards technology, it’s still fascinating that these tech-free trinkets continue to make the grade.

Tags: kids, Youth, Teens, shopping, fashion, tweens, money, Silly Bandz

Stardoll: Starter Style for Tweens and Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, May 20, 2010 @ 12:13 PM
For teens coming of age in the middle or tail end of a recession, shopping isn't quite what it used to be. While not all teens have seen their spending money sliced, many teens who rely on part-time or summer jobs have had to take a backseat to more qualified (and available) adults. YouthBeat data shows that most parents opted not to cut their teens' allowance in 2009, despite their own financial sacrifices, but with teens' day to day costs rising, this group is definitely feeling the pinch. In fact, tweens and teens in our YouthBeat panel told us that they were concerned about the economy more than any other social issue - including the environment. Stardoll

So when the going gets tough, where do tweens and teens go? Online. Not only is it "free," (at least from teens' perspective), but it offers a chance to trade-out offline activities with cheaper, more customized versions that can save both time and money. Has going to the movies gotten too expensive? Save money on gas and stream a video right from home. In need of a new game? Check out the free options online first (which over 50% of kids, tweens and teens report doing in the second half of 2009).

And if you're a girl who absolutely needs a new pair of shoes, you can feed your fix with one easy click.

Maybe you can't have that designer bag in real life, but your MeDoll can. Remodeling your room might not be in your parents' budget, but one visit to Stardoll's design store and you can not only pick out a couch and a lamp, but can create a unique pattern that's perfect for your pad's curtains. (Parents Beware: your daughters might care about curtains a lot more after a visit to Stardolls...And, watch out for the impact on your budget the next time you want to re-do her oh-so conventional offline room!) You might not be able to afford tix to see Avril Lavigne, but your MeDoll can be friends with her MeDoll. And if you fantasize about a trip to France, you can purchase scenery that puts the Eiffel Tower outside your virtual window.

For tweens and teens who are beginning or deep into experimenting with their identities, Stardoll makes taking a fashion risk a bit less risky. If you feel like a Fallen Angel one day and Baby Phat the next, you can find what you're looking for in Starplaza. But the difference: money goes much further in these online worlds than it does in the offline world. So for a tween or teen who might aspire to designer duds, but can't quite come up with the cash, Stardolls is the perfect way to start a couture collection.

The only catch - it's make believe. So you can't wear that outfit outside your home, and the only one to get the skinny on your skinny jeans are the friends who have also transitioned from the real world to this virtual one. But tweens and teens don't seem to mind.

One tween we talked to described Stardolls as, "A super-fun place I never get bored [of] because there is so much to do." According to her dad, "she has a pretty nice condo in her Stardoll world."

Will these brands ever make more from their sale of virtual goods than their sale of real ones? Probably not. The feel of real matters too much. But perhaps it's a way for them to gain favor with a potential audience before it's truly their time. And want to know if that forward-reaching style will pay off next season? Produce it online first and see what happens! But whether Stardoll is a game changer or not, it's certainly a place that makes an impression on its users. And we think it's worth a peek...Don't be surprised if you find yourself hooked.

Tags: Teens, shopping, fashion, tweens, money, Stardoll