When President Barack Obama walked out on stage after winning the election last November, accompanied by his wife and daughters Sasha and Malia – now 8 and 11 years old – Denise Restauri, founder and CEO of AllyKatzz, knew that tween girls were about to make a big impact.
"It was one of those moments of saying, 'The time is now to really shine a spotlight on all tweens,'" she says. "The spotlight will be put on that age group, so let's give it to all girls because they really want to be heard."
Her company, a social network for girls ages 10 to 15, hosted the first National Tween Girl Summit, which was held on October 10 in Washington. The event drew more than 250 girls ages 9 to 14, as well as companies – AOL, EA, and Unilever's Dove brand were all there – hoping to gain some insights into this market that has huge potential.
"They control so much money from a marketing standpoint,” says Restauri. “Based on reports we've read, it's as high as $50 billion they control and $120 billion they influence."
AOL decided to use the event to launch its newest Web site, JSYK.com. The letters stand for Just So You Know and the site is a celebrity and pop culture blog for tweens. The idea for it came out of feedback from members of its kids' site KOL.com who wanted a place to go after they were too old for KOL.
"I've been to lots of industry events where it's adults talking about the audience," says Stephanie Cohen, editorial director of JSYK.com. "But I've never seen an event where they actually brought the girls themselves and listened to what they had to say."
When thinking about how to reach this audience, communicators should realize this group is more savvy and mature than many adults give them credit for, she adds. Their opinions are also important – and matter to Mom and Dad.
"They're going to make it clear to Mom and Dad what they want,” emphasizes Cohen. “That's powerful when it comes to anything from purchasing influence in the family to just for marketers and people who are trying to reach this audience."
Stephen Winkler, PR director for The ad*itive, which works with tweens, teens, and young adults through the Truth anti-tobacco awareness campaign and other educational programs, notes the unique mindset of this group.
"This age group is still trying different things on, persona-wise," he says. "It's a good time to reach them with empowering and educational messaging because they are kind of figuring out where they fall."
Winkler says that The ad*itive and Truth approach this group by offering them "shared experiences" where they can make their own decisions and "let them take it or leave it, rather than pushing them."
"It's just an interesting time in their lives," Cohen says. "The industry as a whole is interested in getting in touch with these kids and learning what they are about."
AllyKatzz sees the potential and is preparing a report from the Summit, due out November 6, which companies and marketers can purchase for $12,500.