BOOKS: The Trillion-Dollar Kids

BOOKS: The Trillion-Dollar Kids - Brandchild; By Martin Lindstrom; Kogan Page, pounds 25

by Rita Clifton, chief executive of Interbrand
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Brandchild; By Martin Lindstrom; Kogan Page, pounds 25

Heard of 'Mindark' or 'Entropia'? Bet your kids have. Branding is all in the huge under-14s market, and as Rita Clifton finds out, tweens make fickle customers.

I must confess, this book is of more than passing professional interest to me. As the mother of two brand-conscious daughters who are respectively in and just past the 'tween' period (the subject of this book), believe me, I take it all personally.

Bless this book. It is full of the kind of eye-popping statistics and pacy case studies that make reading a business book actually enjoyable - and if it occasionally lapses into sweeping generalisations ('they talk about trading indices while they swap baseball or Dragon ball Z cards') then, hey, everyone needs provocative headlines ...

Brandchild tries to practise what it preaches. Since a great part of the book is devoted to the blurring of real and virtual worlds, and asserts that the tween generation is as comfortable being online as offline, the book is presented as a 'DualBook'. The author promises that the book is 'fully integrated with the internet'. I haven't put this to the test yet, but it sounds great in theory.

But some things are for certain. The tweenage group is a critical one for organisations of all kinds to take seriously. Brandchild estimates that USdollars 1 trillion was spent by tweens (eight- to 14-year-olds) around the world last year. Moreover, dollars 25 billion was spent on advertising to them, and at least 60% of brands purchased by parents are influenced by them.

The book opens with a description of the tween generation, of why they are tagged the 'age of compression' (grow up faster, are more connected, more direct, more informed), and about the KGOY syndrome (kids grow up young).

Tweens are segmented into 'fringes' (the maverick ones), 'influencers' (the cool ones), 'conformers' (the mainstream) and the 'passives' (the sad ones). The role of brands is introduced right at the beginning - reflecting their ever-more-critical importance in the lives of this age group. Brands are integral to the way tweens define themselves, and to the way they express who they are at home, at school, at parties and even on the internet.

The chapters cover the hopes and dreams of the tween generation; the fickleness of their brand allegiances; the importance of integrating as many aspects of sensory experience into brand marketing as possible; the power (and risk) of celeb-rity endorsements and 'attitude' branding; peer-to-peer, authentic viral marketing; the 'other-worldliness' of playing in cyberspace; personalised brands; how companies are blurring the worlds of advertising and entertainment; and the need for intelligent media-planning across all communication channels now available.

A large part of the book is based on original global research, in which nearly 2,000 children in 70 cities across 15 countries were interviewed.

Comparing tweens across countries is enlightening (for instance, 90% of Indian tweens apparently want to be famous, whereas only 28% of Japanese kids share that ambition). Also, the research shows the core drivers behind appealing to kids - stability, humour, fear, mastery, fantasy and love.

But the thing that really makes the book come to life is the range and descriptions of case studies. Some of my favourites included FUBU, which arose from the integrity of urban Afro-American culture, and Billabong, which succeeded because of its authenticity in the surfing community.

A Danish sweet firm called its products Seagull Droppings, Big Boobs and Dog Farts to appeal to tweens' ironic sense of humour. Further on, I found myself transfixed by worlds I know almost nothing about: discover Norrath, Everquest, Entropia, Mindark and Avatars for yourself.

Established brands will all be reassured by how Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and Nike are still managing to keep their currency over time by understanding the tween market, and by being good enough at it to avoid looking like a dad dancing at parties.

To be picky about this book, it does show some inconsistent use of statistics and is a bit repetitive in places. But overall, this is a useful, interesting study for people who are directly or indirectly involved in brands and marketing - as well as anyone interested in the changing social and technological dynamics of our global culture.

Oh, and it's a must read for any parent, too. I'm glad I read it, anyway.

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