Friday, December 17, 2004

How Deep is Your Love?

Oh boy. Here we go again.

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. "

He's so savvy," says Dad.
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.
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:
  • $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.

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Hear hear. I'm not looking forward to having to mount resistance against PlayStation etc. as my son gets older, especially since my Spouse wants one himself.

Gary said...

Oh, Tuna, that is an excellent post and I'm in complete agreement with you. $10B out of their own pockets? Uh, unless you have a serious child labour issue down there, that is ridiculous. By such indulgence, children are getting the idea that the world revolves around them and they control the parents' buying decisions. What a shock it will be when they DO grow up and don't realize that the world is not some plum just waiting to be picked at their convenience. Sheesh!

Hammie said...

I may have trouble with my future children because HammieLove owns every video game device, game, accessory and peripheral there is.

Tracey Hogg, author of the Baby Whisperer books, made a good point about kids. She said that they are not always thrilled about toys that you have to operate a certain way. Give them a box or an empty wrapping paper roll and you will see what she means. Kids are WAY overstimulated these days and I think that they Toys R Us' that double as their bedrooms are more of a visual aid for parents to show how good of parents they are.

I think YOU are a good parent Tuna and I am definitely taking notes for my future parentdom.

Mensch71 said...

If Tiny Tuna had ever expressed a desire to be, say, a fighter pilot, UberAuntieTuna would consider purchasing some sort of video game to improve eye-hand coordination and reaction times. Until then... I vote for "Whack-a-Mole" at Chuck E. Cheese on an annual basis.

Sheesh! $10B? Right. And the kid won't even start babysitting until she's in her teens...

Jay Ann Cox, PhD said...

THANK you. ¡Un aplauso! I've been hearing the siren song of the Xbox/PS/GB too, and I cannot think of any reason why I would do that. "But Z and C have one" "Then you can go play at their house! Give them a call? I'll take you." And now I'm tempted to take some things back to Target/TRU for the cash refund. Thanks so so much, my tuna friend, for the wake-up call while there's still time to buy books and puzzles.