Brands and retailers try to solve the puzzle that is tween boys

Discussion
Photo: @lelia_milaya via Twenty20
Jul 25, 2019

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the blog of LoyaltyOne. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.

Target in July introduced an exclusive line designed for girls aged eight to 12, called “More Than Magic.” Its nearly 500 items resulted from interviews with girls and their parents, which raises the question: Where’s the boys’ voice in the tween market?

There are as many boys in this age group as girls, yet few retail brands seem to invest in this market in big ways.

Here are four considerations in determining what will hit the mark.

  1. Use loyalty insights. Loyalty programs could identify when tween-boy purchases begin — e.g., larger clothing sizes, sharply higher grocery bills — and inform communications and promotions for other products that will appeal to this demographic
  2. Partner with moms. Tween boys may influence purchases, but moms make the final call. Retailers showing they understand the peer pressure boys feel — about how they look, smell and compete — have a better chance of capturing moms’ ears.
  3. Reach them through girls. More than 40 percent of boys ages eight to 18 said one of their best friends was a girl, according to NPD. These girls, who mature faster, are guiding boys in fashion and fads, often through social media. Sports brands like Nike and Under Armour have been effective at tapping into this susceptible age by taking the market seriously and offering boys the same styles as men.
  4. Don’t assume interests. Generally, tween boys are losing interest in toys, gaining interest in girls, and are definitely interested in being cool. Enter products such as SpongeBob SquarePants Eau de Toilette Spray for Boys. Remember that thinking like boys also means seeing what they see. Technology makes a new interests accessible, such as photography (Instagram and Snapchat), entrepreneurialism (apps like Street Food Tycoon), and a range of activities addressed in video games — Lego hit the mark with its Dimensions series.

Lastly, retailers and brands would benefit from being sensitive to the vulnerabilities of tween-aged boys. This period between childhood and teens is filled with expectations that earlier generations did not experience. If these boys feel cared for, above all else, they will likely remember it as men.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do tween boys appear to see less attention from brands and retailers than their female counterparts? What advice would you have for marketers targeting the tween boys market and how should it differ than for girls?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Based on my own observations they are still far more interested in Fortnite than the brands of clothing they wear."
"Know your market. Period. ... it is wrong to target this market with the same intention as girls of this same age."
"Shouldn’t marketers be working through the challenges of understanding this exact audience rather than turning to adjacent audiences for cues?"

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5 Comments on "Brands and retailers try to solve the puzzle that is tween boys"


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Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

My short answer would be because they care less about brands than girls of the same age do. Based on my own observations they are still far more interested in Fortnite than the brands of clothing they wear. This tends to shift as the they enter their teens and gain interest in girls.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest

Know your market. Period. Boys in this age group have varied interests, surprisingly, one of those interests IS apparel. However, it is wrong to target this market with the same intention as girls of this same age. Sure, boys of this age are into gaming, however if your marketing team actually takes the time to discover the “who” of this audience by building a few persona via deep consumer research analytics, who represent a good cross section of this varied demographic (not all tweens are alike!), you will find what they are really interested in, and what they are buying. Don’t go with the [misdirected] flow on this.

Heidi Sax
BrainTrust

I agree, Ralph. This is why it strikes me as problematic to resort to “partnering with moms” and “reaching them through girls.” Shouldn’t marketers be working through the challenges of understanding this exact audience rather than turning to adjacent audiences for cues? I have a sense that tween boys aren’t altogether interested in what their moms want them to wear/consume.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest

Great insights, Heidi!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If we assume the spending in the groups is comparable (and why wouldn’t it be?) are boys bigger savers? Then the question is “where is the money going?” I think the reason it seems like girls are getting all the attention is because the focus of this post is fashion, which has seldom been a male stronghold (except of course for sneakers … which Nike exploits ruthlessly).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Based on my own observations they are still far more interested in Fortnite than the brands of clothing they wear."
"Know your market. Period. ... it is wrong to target this market with the same intention as girls of this same age."
"Shouldn’t marketers be working through the challenges of understanding this exact audience rather than turning to adjacent audiences for cues?"

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