Last night I was treated to yet another head-swivelling, eye-rolling story on the NBC Nightly News. It was about the purchasing power of tweens. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, tweens are kids approximately 8-12 years old; a demographic which places TinyTuna squarely in the center.
Deciphering the perfect strategy of marketing to tweens is akin to finding the Holy Grail. There are books and books and books claiming to know the way into their hearts, minds, souls and wallets. Feh.
Here are some of the pearls of wisdom offered in the news story.
At Atlanta's North Point Mall, 11-year-old Bobby shows Dad items at the Apple store. He impresses his parents with his knowledge of what's hot, what's not, even what's a good buy. "Please. He's so savvy??? An 11-year old is NOT savvy. An 11-year old is a typical slightly greedy kid who wants far more than he needs, and is a master at spouting off what's hot and what's not to parents too lazy to know better. It's not savvy -- it's parroting back whatever the TV, Magazine, Computer or friend down the street told them. If you want me to believe your 11-year old is savvy, then you had better have a copy of their Consumer Reports subscription to back it up.
He's so savvy," says Dad.
Club Libby Lu caters to tween girls like Shelby, celebrating her 10th birthday with friends. Afterwards, Shelby shows Mom what a tween girl wants a tiara and rings she says are "bling, bling."What a tween girl wants and what a tween girl needs? If TinyTuna told me she wanted (or needed) a tiara, I would tell her the day her face is on Canadian money is the day I buy her a tiara. The bling bling, she is a no no.
But this was the part of the story that absolutely killed me
Tweens account for an enormous amount of spending:Gee, thanks thanks for doing the math for me; I hate it when I have to carry. But, please. I didn't just fall off the Tuna Truck yesterday. $10 billion from their own pockets? I want to SEE those pockets. Even Hello Kitty doesn't have a credit limit that high.
- $10 billion from their own pockets
- $74 billion more influencing family purchases
- $176 billion spent on them by their parents
That's a total of $260 billion.
Let's be honest about those $10 billion pockets. There are no tweens with $10 billion pockets, there are only parents who throw their money around with the same reckless abandon as Mardi Gras beads. And then what are we left with? Tweens Gone Wild.
Call me old fashioned and mean, but I think there is something inherently wrong with a child (Oooh yes, I said A CHILD) that has an Xbox, a Playstation and a laptop, but doesn't have A JOB. After the mandatory car purchase at the age of 16, I have to wonder what's next? Or for that matter, what's left? There aren't enough Oompah-Loompahs to go around.
TinyTuna has asked for a Game Boy for three years straight. Alas, her record will remain in tact for Christmas 2004, because once again, she's not getting one. The past several years I dismissed it out of hand, but this year I actually thought about it. And then I did some research. I knew the device and the games were pricey. But I was still willing to consider it if I could find games that I could justify as being somewhat educational.
You can stop laughing now. There aren't any.
Honestly, I was relieved. Most of me didn't really want to buy one anyway. Why? Because she IS a tween. Her world has expanded far beyond the boundaries of our close-knit family, and she is influenced by everything and everybody. My tween barometer is her bedroom door, and I want to keep it, and the lines of communication, as open as possible. I don't need to give her any ammunition -- electronic or otherwise -- that entices her to plug in and tune out.
This year, like every year, I look for gifts that challenge her mind and tickle her imagination. Books to read. Tickets for plays and movies that we can see together. An electronic gizmo might make her ecstatic on Christmas Day, but I'm going for the long haul. My love isn't determined by marketing research or the depth of my pockets. I don't care about being a savvy shopper. I care about being a smart parent.
Sorry Nintendo. Game over.