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Gen Alpha is willing to pay – and they want to be treated like adults

by News Room
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The end of tween branding space

The term “tween” is largely a North American term and would not exist without advertising. Short for “tweenager,” one of the word’s first appearances was in 1964 as a size entry in a New York Times shopping article. By the late 1980s, the term had taken a strong hold, with shopping habits like polaroid cameras and video games frequently making headlines.

“No, not a teenager. A tween-ager,” reads a 1988 USA Weekend article, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. “She’s that nine-year-old suddenly dressing to the nines. She’s that 10-year-old who buys Benetton instead of baseball cards. They hang out at the local tween mecca — the mall.”

Other languages ​​have their own names, such as “teenager” in Finnish; and the Arabic “sin el morahqa” meaning “the era of approach”. Tween shopping has also gained an international foothold. There was Tammy Girl, a ’90s British youth haven that closed its doors in 2005, and Pull&Bear, a youth streetwear store founded in Spain in 1991. It’s still going strong. American tween brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister have also found success overseas, with stores in Asia, Europe and South America.

But recent attempts by adult brands to target the tween demographic—like Franki, a younger version of women’s mall Francesca’s, and Project Gap, part of the larger Gap brand—are nowhere near the top of Gen Alpha’s favorite stores. According to US advertising and media company Razorfish, that honor goes to Amazon, Apple, Nintendo, Target and other places on the typical adult’s gift list. The same goes for the UK: Smyth’s Toys, Sports Direct and Tesco are on Performance Marketing World’s list of ‘coolest’ children’s brands.

“The cohort is so brand mature that you have to be very conscious of the authenticity of your brand,” says Josh Campo, New York-based CEO of Razorfish. “I think that’s part of the reason you don’t see their interest in typical kids’ brands. It probably doesn’t have the same authentic feel because it’s almost like you’re patronizing them.”

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