Responsible Marketing

Responsible or not? Marketing to tweens and teens

By April 21, 2008January 21st, 20216 Comments

Eight-year-old cheerleader with free products from marketers.
Katja White, an eight-year-old cheerleader with her arms full of free products she received from marketers at a national cheerleading competition at the Anaheim Convention Center last month.

Want to reach a customer that communicates at hyper speed about your product? Want a loyal customer for life?

Target cheerleaders, football players and other popular teens and tweens and you could get just that.

Using cell phones, text messaging and email, these influencers can (and do) create product buzz overnight.

Marketers are discovering sampling and competitions are powerful ways to reach this market:

  • Procter & Gamble hands out over 300,000 Secret deodorant sticks to cheerleaders
  • Old Spice sends 100 samples of its aptly-named Red Zone body wash to 5,000 high-school football teams(that’s 100 samples per team, or 500,000 samples total
  • Gatorade’s Propel hands out its fitness water at cheerleading camps
  • Skintimate shaving cream sponsors cheerleading camp competitions – the winning team is the “Smooth Moves” champion
  • CoverGirl holds makeover tours, where they give free makeovers and products to tween and teen girls

Some of these giveaways can cause a bit of a frenzy. According to CoverGirl company spokesperson Anitra Marsh:

The girls literally screamed at each camp when they learned they would get free CoverGirl makeovers and samples.

Of course, word of mouth and can kill a product overnight too, but the risk is worth it: teens and tweens are among the most brand loyal of demographic groups. Two-thirds of teens are brand loyal (Harris Interactive) and 60 percent 15-17 year olds remain with their bank after graduation and recommend it to friends (Forrester Research). And of course, children influence their parents and represent hundreds of billions of dollars in consumer spending.

So, is this just plain smart marketing—catching a customer when they are beginning to make life choices—or is it predatory?

Is it responsible or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

. . .
Marketers do backflips to buy kids’ brand loyalty
Marketing to “Tweens” Going Too Far?

Photo credit:
The Seattle Times / Lori Shepler / TPN


Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • I think it is smart marketing. Whether or not it’s appropriate is still open for discussion.

    Here’s a thought: If 60 percent of 15-17 year-olds remain loyal to their bank and recommend it to friends, maybe banks should target high-schoolers and first-time jobbers. Or tweens to get them used to the idea of saving money instead of simply spending it. Credit card companies market to high school grads rather tenaciously. Why not banks and other financial services?

    If banks would market to tweens and teens in the same manner as Cover Girl and Old Spice do, would that be considered to be responsible marketing?

    Tweens and teens are consumers of goods and services just as the rest of us. If a company targets that age group, is that in itself irresponsible marketing? Or does what is marketed make it irresponsible?

  • Lorena says:


    I am an avid reader of your blogs. I enjoy them very much, but I could not help noticing the errors in today’s post. Anyway, it is all good. That means people are really paying attention, isn’t it? So… keep the posts coming đŸ™‚

    So… “Proctor and Gamble” should be mentioned by their real name. Also, I am not sure how 100 samples are split between 5,000 football teams. I know, the info comes from the original article, but I still do not understand.

    Other than that, I think responsible parents (!) need to filter the amount of advertising their children are exposed to. As a parent, I would simply not allow an 8 y.o to have access to deodorant or shaving cream… not to mention hairspray or makeover. Period. There is a time for everything and that time is not now. As a marketer, at the end of the day, I want my conscience to be clean. Those kids cannot make informed decisions. And no, I am not an extremely strict parent. I just want my kid to enjoy each age, not skip to adulthood.

    In my opinion, it is irresponsible and predatory, but it does not have to be like that. The society does not need to shape your child; that is a parent’s job.

  • Alvalyn:

    Great points. To me, that’s what makes Responsible Marketing so interesting. It’s almost impossible to create a one-size-fits-all rule here. For some products SHOULD be marketed to children, others are definitely questionable. The challenge is, who decides?

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts!

    – – –


    Thank you for your kind comments and for taking the time to point out the areas that needed attention. I corrected both areas.

    And as a parent of a five-year-old boy and 3 2/3-year-old girl, I can totally relate to your comments.

    Happy marketing!

  • Deston says:

    Companies would be foolish not to. I remember the first time I begged for Creepy Crawlers (an actual oven to make rubber bugs that could actually burn down your house) and later begged for bell bottomed jeans. It’s as old as time: parents have always been at the mercy of word-of-mouth fads fueled by marketing. My high school son even asks me for the name-brand shoes or cologne, so it’s come full circle.

  • As Deston says, “companies would be foolish not to”!

    While marketing to youth may be a touchy situation ( – what underlying message is promoted? – what method of contact is utilized? – what products do you advertise? – are you going to begin promoting tampons to eight year old girls, or condoms to 10 year old boys? – what personal data is floating around for financial promotions, making even youth a target for identity theft?), it is a lucrative campaign. It is true that many key decisions are made and lessons learned early in life. I think on the “got milk?” campaign that came out during my youth – and it stuck!

    Another key example that I have been directly involved in, is Chick-fil-A’s goal to catch kids young, believing that when you get a child to be a CFA fan, you’ve got a fan for life! And this is accomplished through MANY ways: Chick-fil-A “cow” appearances, Cow Appreciation Day, school nights and fundraisers, Core Essentials – Character Matters, and the list goes on! And one need only be across the room to hear the squeals of delight of 4- or 6-year olds when The Cow emerges from the kitchen – and Chick-fil-A has a “fan for life”

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