School is in session and for tweens and teens the pressure is on to fit in. Appearances count. My sons suddenly care about the way their hair is cut and the kind of clothes and shoes they wear. Advertising agents, recognizing the power of the tween market, are scrambling reach this demographic. According to a recent Adweek article, kids aged 8 to 12 are spending $30 billion of their own money and influencing $150 billion of their parents' spending each year. These kids are making decisions on everything from where the family takes a vacation to what they serve for dinner.
As crazy as it may seem, we really are putting our wallets into the hands of 10-year-olds. I know I fall into this trap with my own kids. We stopped at a convenience store recently for some snacks, and my tween grabbed some Gatorade candy because he had seen it on TV. These kids know about new foods, movies, video games and clothing trends before I do because they have more time to watch TV than I do and so they see the ads.
These companies marketing their goods to the kids are smart and I don't begrudge them the business. But it does seem like somewhere between the McDonald's Happy Meal and the $300 Nike sneakers we cross the line between everyday consumers to materialistic fools.
It's too early to tell what the next fad will be, but I'm sure that after a few weeks in school, my kids will let me know.