FIRST came the boomers. Then it was Generation X. Today's teens, and their younger siblings the tweens, are less easy to label. Some are calling them the Millennials - a generation that has never been without computers, mobile phones, e-mail and SMS.
Call them what you will, one thing the marketers agree on: they are the most wanted generation in history, and are part of a new kid-focused world. They have more money and are better educated than any generation before.
Kids are segmented and targeted by the marketers who need to understand them and, with that understanding, try to sell them the latest to wear, eat, drink or play. With fads coming and going in nano-seconds, and products, brands or campaigns fast becoming yesterday's news, marketers know they must keep up or be left behind.
Kids are also becoming smart consumers, at a younger age than ever before. They can be wary of the marketers' messages but nevertheless are eager to spend their money on brands they connect with.
It is a worldwide phenomenon led, perhaps not surprisingly by the United States. Take these few random facts from a recent US report on marketing to teens and tweens, Youth Markets Alert:
To stay ahead in such a world, marketers not only need a product that kids can relate to but campaigns that will keep them top of the purchase list.
- Tweens aged 8 to 12 spend US$21.7 BILLION of their own money and influenced the spending of another US$170+ BILLION of their parents' money!
- Teenagers spend more than US$10 BILLION a year on personal care items.
- Ford and General Motors target children as young as two with their marketing messages.
- The typical American child lives in a home with three TVs, two VCRs, three radios, three tape players, two CD players, a videogame system and a computer.
- One quarter of all US tweens have made purchases online.
- 90% of the time kids are online they are also doing something else - reading a magazine, listening to the radio, watching TV, talking on the phone.
Maintaining brand loyalty and finding ever more innovative ways to sell products in the kid's market is a challenge that every successful company must face.
For the first time in the Middle East, an event will be taking place which aims to show just how it can be done with vivid examples and case studies of what kids in the Middle East like; what they want; and what kind of spending power they have.
Organised by the Institute for International Research, the 1st Middle East Consumer Kids Forum takes place in Dubai, UAE, from 30th June to 2nd July 2002. The forum's website at www.iirgulf.com/consumerkids gives full details of the impressive line up of speakers.
Among the presentations will be two on the emergence and understanding of the Consumer Kids market with the very latest research into how a Middle East kid is different from his or her Western or Asian counterparts.
Companies such as Nestle, Disney Channel, Saatchi & Saatchi, Impact Proximity and Bahrain's Batelco will be giving details about their successful strategies in understanding today's youth market.
Uniquely the forum also includes a full-day masterclass in which kids work with the delegates to create campaigns for products. This is led by experts in working with kids Bryan Urbick and Abel Westerhof, of the Consumer Knowledge Centre and Kidslink Research Ltd., of the UK.
Spending patterns are changing throughout the region. Consumer Kids are not only the spenders of today, they are increasingly purchase 'influencers.' They influence what parents buy for them and also many major household purchases - even the cars that mum and dad drive.
More and more companies have come to realise that the Consumer Kids market cannot be ignored. If they don't get the key advertising, marketing and promotional strategies right, they might as well shut up shop.
Chris Mullinger is Event Director of the 1st Middle East Consumer Kids Forum. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.