Thursday, November 20, 2014

When is a tween not a tween?

Image from One Red Fly. Clothes for 3-14 year olds.

When a parent can't stand the term, yet uses it anyway.

A tween is a marketing dream. Or a marketer's dream.

Once including kids aged in the pre teenage years of 10-12, it seems to now have dropped to the 8-12 bracket.

It's a way to advertise to teen wannabes. To kids who are told they should no longer want to play with toys and instead they should be interested in smaller sized adult products. A tween is told not to play with toys so much, instead they should have some hot pink hair ties and a lip gloss, an iPod with a trendy cover. A tween girl begins to get messages from around the age of eight that she should be interested in non-kid things.

This is a very modern thing to do to our kids and as parents we seem to be blindly following the marketers wishes. It can be hard not to.

Don't bother popping into Bonds Kids to get your eight year old child an outfit. Kids apparently stop at size 7, but Bonds are not alone in this. Cotton On kids stops at size 8 - after that you need to go in the Teen range and your eight year old is encouraged to wear the same as a 14 year old might want to wear. Ask the parents of any kids wearing size 8 - 12 and most are struggling to find shops that cater to their needs. Children's boutiques more and more specialise in only newborn to 8 years - maybe this is because they just can't sell the older stuff. Maybe.

Search hard enough and you will find a brand that thinks kids are still kids, all messy hair and slouchy and busy doing their thing rather than reapplying their face.

This is more how I am happy for my kids to be. Just wearing clothes that let them do all the things they need to do.

Image from Missie Munster

Tweens were actually first referred to as those post the teen years - the people in their 20s, still working out what they wanted to do with their lives.

The "tweens" were defined by J.R.R. Tolkien thusly: "At that time Frodo was still in his tweens, as the hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and coming of age at thirty-three. 

That makes sense, even using the 'tw' from twenty. I like it. And really, if you have met any 'kids' in their early twenties lately, they really are pretty much tweens in the true sense of it and mostly still living with their parents.

Which leaves me with my own eight year old wannabe tween. She who begs for an Instagram account and sleep over parties but who can't safely cross a busy road on her own.

I am reluctant to use the term tween at all. Preferring to call things as they are, I like kids to be children and teenagers to be teenagers, but modern society is dragging me along. I am being forced to shop in teen shops for clothing.

As a marketer I am fully aware of the dollar benefits of segmenting to the tween market. It's a powerful one. Where kids have enormous power over the financial decisions of the family household.

Just check out any Smiggle store, jokingly referred to as crack for kids. How much Smiggle is enough? Filled with overpriced smelly textas that every kid wants, they are not too pricey that parents can't afford them, yet enough that not every kid gets them. They distinguish themselves from all the Crayola your kid has had for the last five years, making them so much cooler, adding in ipod speakers and slap bands to up the "I want it" factor.

I can't fight society and the influence it has on my kids. It is what it is and they live in a world surrounded by peers that have a big impact on them. But I can search for things that I think will provide them with entertainment, stuff they might 'play' with, while not even knowing. I have found most of these 'things' to be bigger outside things. Scooters, sneakers with wheels in them, kinetic sand, tennis racquets, trips to trampoline centres and roller skating rinks. Board games and card games and books are also great options.

And it's also important to note that society has made big progress in the advertising we do.

Do you remember Barbie and the Rockers...

Perhaps the tween market can actually become a great thing. With the right marketing teams pushing it the tween target audience could be sent messages about how great it is to be a child. That time when you can climb a tree without an adult's help. You can ride a bike without training wheels. You can spill popcorn all over the couch and not be the one who has to clean it up. The tween still lives in a time of fewer problems then teenagers, when at least their skin is not marked with pimples  and Impulse isn't sprayed every half hour.

The tween years might actually be the best ever. They just need a new campaign.

P.S I have a really fantastic list of things to giveaway at the moment. Please take a look and let me know which ones you would love to win. 


  1. Oh yes. The clothes thing is what really gets me. You cannot find kids clothes past size 7. And my girls are tall so they move into the tween bracket earlier than most. Frustrates me A. LOT. Not to mention the fact that they charge extra for clothes in the tween range too.

    1. A tall six year old has very few options. I really like Minti for some fab clothes but they are a bit more pricey and I try to get them in the sales.

  2. I have a tall 5 year old girl. So hard. She is a little girl that loves pink and pretty still. Size7/8 clothes just aren't that pretty. She can still get away with size 5/6 shorts but the waist to crutch is so short she looks like she is wearing hipsters - so wrong on a 5 year old. The marketing sucks.

    PS My sister had a barbie and the Rockers doll and tape. We LOVED that toy - but we were 8 and 10.

    1. See - 10 year olds used to be the target for Barbie ads, now, a 10 year old is expected to have outgrown Barbie - or other dolls. Barbie has her own issues, but she is still a toy and our girls are told very soon that toys are not for them.

  3. Argh. I have tall and skinny kids. One is nine and one is 12. I've had the problems of which you speak since the oldest one was six and wearing size eight tops. He was SIX. With six year old tastes, which didn't gel so much with clothes that were suitable for a 14 or 16 year old. I've been getting him quirky geeky t-shirts online since he was about 10, just because there's a big difference between ten and 16 as well. Now he's all about the skinny chinos from Cotton On big kids, button down shirts and t-shirts. Very style-y.

  4. Love the 'bigger outside things...' - brilliant for my boys - especially as school holidays start in a week and two days (yes counting...) - 8 weeks of entertainment ahead - great when they can amuse themselves. The clothes thing drive me made too - my 12yr old is tall and well built and I DO NOT want him in crappy logo t-shirts and hoody's and low slung pants - thank you Missoni Target range for some decent gear to see him through summer...and yes I remember Barbie and the Rockers!

  5. I am terrified of my daughter reaching this stage for this exact reason. Part of me wants to keep her in a bubble from age 8 to 18 to keep her safe :) Hoping by the time we get to this age (she's currently 3) perhaps choices might be better thanks to people like you speaking up!

  6. My almost 10 year old is naturally getting less interested in toys. We don't watch much TV and are super careful about what clothes she wears, and things she is exposed to. It is such a hard balance to make.

  7. I'm in shock that Tolkien used the word Tween! I assumed it was something marketing gurus made up a couple of decades ago. Enlightening info Clairey.

  8. Great post. Love every word of it.

  9. I have a few nieces in this age group and find it difficult to find things that are appropriate. Thanks for the suggestions.


Commenting brings amazing luck, you must try it and see how you go!