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May 2012
How Do We Make the “Kid Connection”?

How Do We Make the “Kid Connection”?

by Ted Mininni – President/Creative Director, Design Force, Inc.

Talk with them. Not at them or over them. When marketing to kids address them, not just their parents. Kids won’t endorse a brand that doesn’t speak to them. While parental consent is important, especially for young children, kids have more influence than ever over the brands their parents purchase for them. In fact, kids have an increasing say over all family purchases in general.

As many of our readers know, I've written about the challenges we face in capturing the attention of kids many times in the past. However, given the rapid pace at which technology is evolving (even in their world), and how quickly and easily they take to new technological advances, I felt it was time to update our research on this elusive demographic, and revisit the topic in this issue of BOLT!. Feel free to chime in... your thoughts are always welcome.


Most kids recognize 200 logos by the time they’re in first grade, according to James McNeal’s “The Kids’ Market: Myths and Realities”. By age three, they can recognize brands by package shape and color – long before they can read. By the age of five, 50% of kids are asking for specific brands. So is there any doubt marketers need to address kids as well as parents?

The venues marketers use to reach kids matter a great deal. Choosing the proper online sites, television networks and magazines is crucial to reach this audience. Make no mistake: even young children are reached on multiple platforms today. Favorite web sites and social networks filled with early adopters and peers are strong influencers.

To capture children’s attention, and their endorsement, brands need to speak in an authentic voice or kids will know they’re fakes in a second. When that happens, no amount of coming clean and changing the message will save brands kids have already nixed; they’ll always be wary of them. Genuine messaging needs to not only be delivered directly to kids; it should be couched in their “voice”. Successful brands use age-appropriate language to address their target audiences. Smart marketers let favorite characters and licensed properties do the actual “talking” in a creative manner to fully engage their audience.

Kids are highly imaginative, so innovative marketing communication strategies are well received. Zany, humorous, colorful or action-packed marketing ideas play well to young kids and tweens. It’s important to get their attention in an engaging manner, since kids are invariably doing more than one thing at a time. Their ability to multi-task is truly amazing; they can message their friends while watching TV or scanning their favorite web sites, doing homework or reading. It’s ever more challenging to keep kids’ attention in this modern environment, so messaging has to be inventive and spot on.

Marketing messaging is one thing; showing is quite another, and it’s an even better way to engage kids. When they see advertising depicting kids in their age groups having fun and engaging with specific toys or games, for example, they respond. There are an infinite number of ways to express happiness in a verbal or non-verbal manner in advertising, and kids respond to emotional cues, just as adults do.

While their kids are looking for fun, parents are seeking wholesome or educational values associated with the brand. Appealing to both groups takes acumen and insights but speaking to kids and their parents while emphasizing brand values that both can endorse, helps seal the deal. Just as long as the overall value proposition is strong.

Remember that consumers have shifted since the recession; they’re actively seeking more value for each expenditure so delivering that component as part of the overall message continues to be very important. Of course when it comes to their children, parents are more flexible. Still, those brands that position their products in a value-conscious manner will garner more sales. Companies that deliberately orient products at or below specific category price points encourage consumer spending in this environment.

Remember too, that value isn’t only about price for parents. It’s all about toys and games that promote whole family entertainment as parents spend more time at home with their children. Centering on redirected family values that are meaningful again like shared time and shared entertainment matters.

For children, brands that reach them in the ways outlined here have strength. When kicked up a notch, brand values that encompass all of the things children care most about – what they’re totally into from a pop cult perspective – become an integral part of their lives. Using favorite sports, music and fashion as links to kids’ brands strengthens them; cross pollinating brands with pop culture make them cool and more desirable.

Marketing messaging lays the groundwork for kids’ and parents’ acceptance of branded products. Making the “kid connection” at this level leads to sales and brand loyalty. At this point in consumer purchasing history, that makes all the difference.

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