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In the youth space, capturing the tween audience, and doing it for more than a fleeting moment, has become a kind of Holy Grail. Many brands successfully speak to kids with products and brands that play with their need for silly fun. And for brands that have fostered the kind of sixth sense that tells them what teens really want, it’s easier than not to know where this group will go next. But building and growing a tween brand requires more nuanced insights, with execution that goes a bit overboard. This group, who by definition lives between the ease and comfort of childhood and the risk and challenges of the teen years, can be hard to pin down. They’re on the go, but more importantly, they’re a moving target. So how will the next tween brand get it right?

1. They live for tweens. Most tween brands that become craze-worthy have put a stake in the ground – right in tween territory. They combine kid confidence with teen sophistication, and telegraph to tweens that they care about them above all else. Justice says it right in their name – Just for Girls. 

2. They go big. Tween brands might require intimate insights, but in execution, they need to feel public. Ubiquity isn’t a bad thing to tweens (unlike teens) and being accepted by all – a safe and socially acceptable choice – matters. Tween brands don’t worry about overexposure, but rather hope for it. And tweens reward them by broadcasting their brands. Silly Bandz continue to be a great example of this, as these stretchy bracelets let tweens show off their collections, but also their allegiances to the many brands that have partnered with them (everyone from the NBA to Nickelodeon).

3. They know who they are – and run with it. Tweens brands might be a bit more sophisticated than their kid counterparts, but they don’t mind going a little over the top. Think American Girl…This brand got it right for many reasons, but one was certainly the all-encompassing experience of the brand. Visit the flagship store in any major city and you’ll see for yourself. America Girl stores give not only these sought-after dolls a home, but have their own clothes, salon, Tea Room and the American Girl Revue. It’s like Vegas for the pre-teen set.

4. They take tweens – but not themselves - too seriously.  Finally, tween brands know that the lives of these in-transition youth include serious decisions and dilemmas. But they also know that tweens do not want to talk about it. Instead, tweens seek experience that takes them back to the carefree life they remember from being kids, while giving them more intensity to keep them engaged. Think Nike and the Wii, with the former bringing playful fantasy into hardcore play, and the latter bringing family fun to a whole new level.

So who will be the next big tween brand? It’s hard to predict, but we can guess that they’ll be living by the rules above.