MICA seminar explores 'tweenager' mind-set

By , agencyfaqs! | In | February 16, 2004
A daylong seminar organised by MICA dwelled on a key consumer segment - the 8-14 year-olds - and their needs and aspirations

Childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, pester power, are terms thrown in very often when dealing with 'tweenagers'. But do we fully comprehend who the tweenager really is? What drives him or her? How does this segment, defined by a Millward Brown study, as kids from the age of nine to 14 (some researchers choose to follow an eight to 14 age group definition, while still others go with the "classical" definition of eight to 12 years) behave? Can we fully claim to understand this segment, which directly impacts categories such as food, entertainment, clothing, music and electronics? A seminar titled Chrysalis, organised by the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA) on February 13, 2004, in Mumbai, attempted to dispel the myths surrounding this segment.

One of the speakers, Meenakshi Madhvani, managing partner, Spatial Access Solutions, chose to go with the classical definition of tweenagers, as kids from the age of eight to12, when presenting her learnings on communicating with "mall brats" in particular. "These children have no biases, no fear of technology," she said, while explaining the factors that influence this segment. "They live in an age, which is fast-paced, where capitalism prevails. There is sufficiency, information and a general entrepreneurial spirit among people. Above all, consumerism is no more a bad word, and these children harbour greater aspirations as well as have more choice at hand."

The fallout of this socio-economic change is that tweens are "quasi-consumers" influencing brand choice and are dominant brand selectors when it comes to categories such as confectionery, milk foods, toys, clothes et al. Hence, when inducing the housewife or mother to make a purchase, especially, in categories that directly impact the tweenager, marketers should consider routing it through the tween, she stated. "Children remember commercials in which they find recognition and identification. They also remember ads that disappoint them as well as ads that are funny," she said.

Another characteristic of tweenagers is their short attention span, implying, that campaign constructs should be short in keeping with the child's ability to assimilate quickly. "A traditional four-week campaign period does not work," said Madhvani. Further, tweens behave differently in different markets, and, it is important for marketers to understand media consumption patterns of the mother and child when directing a piece of communication at them. "Mass media solutions build brand awareness and saliency not brand connect," she said. "The idea is to build relationships and not add numbers."

The second presentation by Vivek Sharma, business director, Ogilvy & Mather, focused on a narrow definition of the tweenager, precisely, the 13-15 age group. This section turned out very insightful considering that the segment is normally grouped with the older teen population of 16-19 years. Sharma, in his session on 'Key Drivers of Communication with Tweenagers', dwelled on the physiological changes of children in the 13-15-age group, their search for identity, sexual awareness, parent-peer acceptance and dependence, and the fact that this segment more often than not finds itself in "no man's land" - too old to be called a child and too young to be labelled a teenager. Interestingly, examples of communication targeted at this segment were few and far between, pointed out Sharma, with the age group largely ignored owing to brand activity targeted at the eight-12 age group, defined as kids by Sharma and the older 16-19 age group, defined as teenagers by him.

Children in this age group are rebellious, argumentative, prefer discarding symbols of childhood and develop abstract thinking, he said. "TV is a window to their world, and typically, these children seek out reality-based shows, music, movies and VJ-led programmes."

Girls, as opposed to boys, are relationship-oriented, read women's magazines, while guys seek out action, thrill and adventure. These children develop their own language, which, as Sharma explains, is a result of "feeding into media and taking from media as well". "They like anybody who has fame or money, and mobility takes two forms, physical and social," he states.

In terms of communication, 13-15 year olds prefer to be addressed as older individuals, and hate to be "talked down". Humour of a subtle kind, namely, irony, sarcasm, innuendo, finds favour with this audience, with anything pretentious or obvious discarded instantly by this segment. "These kids move from the simplicity of childhood to complexity of character. Hence, it is not surprising to see them opt for cerebral pleasures such as chess and so on," states Sharma.

Again, 360-degree communication, as in the innovative use of different media, works with this audience. The need is to indulge their senses quickly, embrace their heroes, understand their needs, and above all, fit into their world. "If routed early, this segment could go a long way in later years in being loyal users of a brand, which speaks of their importance," adds Sharma. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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