BOYS vs GIRLS: the gender differences of #inbeTWEENers


Tweens are often termed the ‘inbetweeners’, caught between the kiddie world that’s focused on fantasy/play and the fledgling world of teenagerdom that’s about self expression within the group. Marketers looking to engage with tweens in todays digital environment need to understand that there are huge gender differences between boys and girls aged 8-12. I wrote about these gender differences in a previous post here, but this visual above is a snapshot I created with my fellow planner Paul Gage on the tween gender differences.

Put simply tween girls are all about the social context, playing in co-operation with their friends as they do things online. Once they hit 12-13yrs however, this co-operation turns into competition. We’re seeing the new digital trend of Instagram beauty pageants where girls post selfies and compete with each other as to who’s hot or not. Check out #beautycontest or #beautypageant on Instagram.

 They’re also looking for brands to provide deeper storytelling content online, they’re after detail, flourishes of pastel colours and the ability to create their own branded memories to share with friends.

On the flipside, unsurprisingly, tween boys are about adventure, action, gadgets. They’re visual rather than being verbal focused in their interaction. Their gaming world has trained them to focus on a hero character as the social context is less important. They want brands to be quick and to the point, bold colours and graphics and get excited by symbols of achievement as they compete with their friends in everything. Tween boy world is binary – yes or no and they are extremely single tasked focused. Good to see things don’t change as it’s true guys can’t do two things at once.

 Just a few tips and tricks to think about when looking to design brand experiences for tween boys or girls. Thanks Gagey for the shared insight.

Influencer Interview: Amanda Mooney talks Youth, Brand Engagement & Social media


Snr Social Media Planner Amanda Mooney

I haven’t done an Influencer Interview in a while so I thought I’d touch base with a great social media planner who I follower on Twitter – Amanda Mooney from Edelman Digital in Chicago. She’s got some amazing insight into how young people today are interacting with brands and social technology. Here are 5 key thoughts I’ve pulled out of the interview:

1. Kids ‘master media’ in under 4yrs so brands will have to continue to evolve their media/creative strategies

2. Youth today are both Entreprenuerial and Defiant.

3. Brands which fuel youth passion points invariably win

4. Forget campaigns, create sustainable means of engagement by earning the right to be in the conversation

5. Help young people belong and be significant (echoing the words of Graham Brown from Mobile Youth).

You can follow amanda on Twitter or check out her blog

How would you describe American youth in a sentence or word right now?
Can I have two? We’re not waiting for anyone’s approval at the moment. There’s a new sense of entrepreneurism and a sense of defiance that’s touching otherwise “ordinary” young people with nothing more than a bit of talent or ideas about the world and a good Wi-Fi connection.
How do you think social media platforms have changed the way brands ‘engage’ with today’s youth? Any learnings from your experience?
There’s an entire generation growing up now that never has to call your 1-800 number for customer care or to file a complaint. It’s never been so easy for us to take action if we have an issue or a question that needs to be addressed. According to a Kaiser Foundation report, children are also now growing up spending more time creating and consuming media per day than they’re spending in school: 7.5 hours. They’re spending more time than most marketers spend in their full time jobs. Consider the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft and kids can “master” media and communications in under four years. Brands have to realize how smart we are about media and their messages.
Which youth brands are ‘getting it right’ when it comes to engaging youth and why? Any brands that really are struggling?
I’m only 24 and very much still starting out in the industry but in my opinion, the brands that are really struggling at the moment are investing millions in flash and trash campaigns and spending a huge amount of effort to buy up “impressions” rather than changing their businesses at the core to address what’s happening in our world and how we’d like to engage with brands moving forward. It’s not enough to simply throw up the image of a celebrity next to your product and start asking for our last few bucks when rent’s due or pushing for our last bits of attention. At a time when unemployment for 18-29 year olds in the US is currently around 37%, the highest in three decades for our age group, you have to consider that the cost of one banner campaign on a major network could help a young person start their business, fund their entire education, provide a service that fuels a cause they’re passionate about. I can’t believe what’s being wasted on purely promotional copy, taglines, creative, product shots, paid celebrity tweets. Pay those celebrities to be a sounding board for your community and provide perspective and access! I know what it’s like to come from a family that lives paycheck to paycheck, what it’s like to pay for my own education and be in my first few years out of school while the economy’s still in a giant mess and I’ll say that one of the things I love most about our industry is the possibility of giant global brands using the vast resources at their disposal to help fuel the passions or needs of their customers.
Graham Brown from Mobile Youth has a great quote that’s stuck with me. He says, and I believe, we want very simply for brands to play two roles before we’ll be open to hearing your marketing message… “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
Want to “get it right”? Take a second and check out the projects on and think about how you can partner with these brilliant young creatives to support their projects and establish a partnership that fuels your own brand as well. Get in touch with Amanda Rose (@amanda on Twitter) and partner up with Twestival, have a chat with Abby Falik of Global Citizen Year or Charles Best of DonorsChoose or check out CauseCast and SocialVibe to see how your marketing efforts can help us give back to the causes we care about. Instead of interrupting our playlists on MySpace, use media on the homepage of MySpace Music to help promote fresh, young bands in the community. Check out Jane McGonigal’s talk at TED on the possibility of leveraging our favorite outlets for play to reinforce a deep sense of citizenship and figure out how your own products can serve a greater good in our lives. Have a chat with all of the great people like @richardatdell who make it possible for us to get personalized service, when we need it, on our own terms and figure out how you can put this into practice in your own organization.
Are you seeing any new youth subcultures or tribes emerging which marketers should pay attention to?
I was particularly taken by two bits of information recently. The average age of a first-time mom in the US is now 25-years-old and according to Census projections, the “traditional American family,” married with children, is now the minority. You have a generation of new moms who grew up digital,  are in their first years out as young adults,  who may or may not have the support of a traditional household structure. They also increasingly live further away from their parents as well. For many of them, their online community is a vital space to find information and support.
I’m also reading everything I possibly can about youth in China as well. At 500 million strong by 2015, I wouldn’t call them a subculture by any means, but marketers should invest considerable time and energy to understand the subcultures that exist within the youth population in China. It’s an unprecedented time of change, connection and youth empowerment. I particularly love NeochaEDGE for a daily perspective on brilliant young creatives in China.
What have you learnt about ‘global youth culture’ in your travels/experiences? Is there even such a thing as global youth culture?
First, I’ll say that most of my experience to date has been largely observational online and has come from research as well but I’m desperately interested in moving overseas to experience and study youth culture in other parts of the world.
Overall, I think that we’re all excited by the sense that we have a collective power and the possibility of connection on a global scale, but it would be a mistake to lump us all together. For perspective on the sheer size of global youth, consider that, according to the CIA World Factbook, the average age of the world’s population is 29. Youth engagement can certainly ladder up to a point of global connection in a powerful way but make no mistake, your efforts have to find local relevancy.
3 tips for connecting with youth?
1.       Listen to us and figure out how you can earn the right to fit into our lives before you spend hours in a boardroom thinking about how you can push a message or product to us. Look at all of the resources in your network- your connections, your media, your power of voice, the access you may have to partners… and find a way to make them work for us, not just your own marketing objectives.
2.       Get out of a campaign mindset and budgeting structure and create sustainable means of engaging us. Certainly there can be key periods that spike engagement but you can’t just float in and out of our lives whenever it’s convenient.
3.       To reiterate Graham Brown’s point, “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
What’s the most important piece of advice you give clients you work with when they come to you looking to use social media platforms as part of their marketing mix?
Social media can’t just be part of your marketing mix. It will and very much should, shift your organization at its core. R&D, customer service, CSR… what’s happening in the space is fundamentally changing our lives as consumers and it will fundamentally change your business as well. 
What do brands need to know about you and your friends in terms of wanting to have a conversation with you?
Don’t talk down to us. Don’t assume that you immediately have the right to be included in our conversation. You have to earn that. Don’t, don’t assume that you naturally *get* us. There’s nothing worse than that. Be honest. Expect us to respectfully disagree or point out when something’s not right. Understand that pushback from us isn’t definitive, necessarily negative or final. It’s a dare.. a dare to listen to what we’re telling you, good or bad, and honestly use it to make your brand better.
Also, I love this tweet from @leeclowsbeard. “Most people don’t have enough time to interact with their kids, let alone your brand. Respect that.” The same goes for us.
Your favorite blogs or brands and why?
Ahhh that’s a long list. But here are a few that I love because the writers are brilliant and I can always trust these sites for regular inspiration in my work:
·         PSFK
·         Three Billion
·         AfriGadget
·         Ruby Pseudo
·         Enovate
·         Mobile Youth
·         Kitsune Noir
·         NeochaEDGE
·         Design Mind
·         Jonathan Harris’ Today
·         The Selby
·         Wooster Collective
·         Alain de Botton on Twitter
·         Future Perfect
·         Dazed Digital

Interactive storytelling – glimpse into the future


Found this awesome phonebook concept from a Japanese media lab. Meet the phonebook, combining the beloved iphone with a simple childs book. Very cool way to integrate print with technology. I love that it’s so simple and low tech but produces an incredibly rich solution which  could really revolutionise how parents and kids interact over the sacred storytelling time every evening. Creativity could be unleashed with this little app. There’s some more info here but it’s in Japanese.

Aussie kids say GFC is a major issue

digital kids

Sat through quite an interesting presentation by Cartoon Network yesterday. They do an annual ‘New Generations’ study of kids aged 7-14, sample size 2000. There was nothing amazingly breakthrough but some interesting statistics which I thought I’d share:


97% of 7-14yr olds have access to a laptop/desktop in the home, 87% have access to a digital camera and 70% to a handheld console. 50% of these kids also have a TV in their room and a whopping 58% have a a gaming console in their room.


Kids are spending on average 17.1hrs a week watching TV, next comes the web with 16.4hrs (defined as fun activities like social networking, chat, gaming) and 11 hours for playing video games. 45% of kids said they wish they played outside more…a worrying trend for the ‘cotton wool’ culture that exists in Australia.


When asked what they’d change about themselves, 45% of kids said they’d like to be smarter, 42% said they want to be better at sport and 26% said they’d change the way they look.


It’s clear that media and parental commentary has a massive influence on Aussie kids, no surprise right!! In terms of the most important world issue, 20% of kids said the financial crisis, 17% said environmental issues.


The GFC has brought with it a decline in kids pocket money, down 5% to 67% of kids getting pocket money. On average, 7-14yr olds get $10.52 a week, this is on an increasing scale with age. 7-8yr olds get $6.51, 9-10yr olds get $8.52, 13-14yr olds get $10.46 and 13-14yr olds get $15.61. For 13-14yr olds this equates to $1353 purchasing power a year which isn’t bad ‘play’ money.


Online gaming is by far the most popular digital activity for kids aged 7-14, it’s actually higher between ages 7-11 than it is as ages 12-14 as kids start discovering youtube and socila networking.


50% of kids aged 11 have a mobile, 76% of 12yr olds have one and a whopping 94% of 13-14yr olds have one. Texting (46%) is still by far the most popular use, with girls sending 10 texts a day and boys 6 texts a day. They start young.


No massive suprises here, it’s Miley, Zac Effron, Rob Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe and the Jona Brothers.


Pink tops the list, not surprising as she’s just done 60 shows in Australia, Michael Jackson comes in at No.2 (on the back of his tragic passing), Taylor Swift is adored by young girls and Eminem is back in the kids good books off his latest album.


WWF star John Cena tops the list for the boys with Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos rugby league star) and David Beckham coming in third.


20% of kids say ‘ME’, which is nice to see that the ‘make me famous’ trends is still alive and well. Paris Jackson and Taylor Swift are seen as the next big things.

So that’s it, just some toplines on what’s happening with kids aged 7-14yrs in Australia in 2009. Thanks Cartoon Network for the insight.

BOYS VS GIRLS….the social differences

I’ve been doing some thinking about the key differences in the way young boys and girls socialise. My research is based on talking  directly to about 20 boys and girls aged 7-13 in essentially the tweens and early teens. Here are some thoughts on the differences I see in how they interact with each other and the psychology behind it.


Younger boys hang in larger groups less structured groups, they seek validation by surrounding themselves with 4-5 friends all the time. They seek out less intense relationships, happy to see those buddies once or twice a week and hang out at the skater park. Their conversations are very ‘light on’, they never go into much detail, they are starting to develop their masculine side and it’s seen as weakness if you talk in lots of detail with your buddies about stuff…no conversations on a topic last more than 5 minutes. A key part of this is the word ‘MY’ – all the young boys I spoke to saw themselves as the centre of their tribe, even though they clearly weren’t J. They are very much into ‘my crew’ mentality and seek belonging within these mini tribes which exist typically at a locational level in where they live.

In contrast, young girls of the same age display duo or ‘US’ behaviour, in that they seek intense relationships with 1-2 other girls.At this age,   rather than spend time organising to ‘meet the girls’ (this kicks in around 15), they are far more into the 1-1 dynamic,  where they can dive deep into stuff in their lives: pop stars, boys at school, dance, etc, etc. At school they are very much defined and classified by who their ‘bestie’ (best friend) is. Whereas for boys, it’s more the collective of 6+ close friends.


Boys are more mechanical in their interactions with their buddies, their connections typically revolve around ‘playing sports’ with each other, hanging at the skate park, playing xbox, going down to the beach. There’s very much a ‘side by side’ mentality and the tween and early teen years are all about finding what you’re good at. It’s a time of constant discovery and experimentation.

Girls are into ‘face to face’ time, it’s about more intimate dialogues, online or offline. For them it’s about ‘getting to know each’ other and they are starting to develop their nurturing and supportive personalities.


Competition between males is part of our DNA, and kids/tweens start exhibiting this behaviour on through ‘dares’ and ‘physical challenges’. The boys I spoke to were all about ‘daring’ each other to do tricks in the skate park, jump off logs into the creeks. It’s all about status within their micro communities and achievement. They are starting to master their body and this then builds as they get into more competitive sports at school. In the virtual world this competitive side also comes out through the games they play, typically fantasy and war games, so they are also displaying more ‘aggressive’ personality traits than previous kid/tween generations.

If boys are about ‘competition’, girls are about ‘CO-OPERATION’. For them these years are about exploring relationships, the need to constantly connect and seek validation about their personalities, their likes and interest. Today kids are seeking immense pressure in how they manage their online personas, how they are perceived on facebook, bebo etc.

Marketers looking to engage kids aged 7-13 need to think about these gender differences between young boys and girls and the psychology behind their interactions. Obviously, BELONGING and developing their self identity via interactions with other kids is part of growing up, but it is interesting to see the fundamental differences between the sexes which continue to manifest into later teen years and early adulthood. I’m going to do a similar study on 14-18yr olds and to see wha