Marketing to children – Five ways to get it right

Mon, 20/08/2018 - 08:30

Shopping is not only reserved to the supermarket, but also online, bringing childrens’ nagging and pestering of parents to the living room.

In-app purchases can leave a serious dent on the credit card, and with cookies tracing childrens’ interests and providing advertising to match, running a tight ship becomes more like running the gauntlet for the modern parent. 

It’s no wonder that marketing to children is under newfound scrutiny. With social media keeping an eye on any transgressions, companies will be called out more and more.

Here are five examples of how to market to children – and how to get it right:

1. Get people in the know

Agencies do not always have the right people onboard, since the dynamics in marketing to children are different. As was said of WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell: "You won’t learn what 16-year-old girls are thinking about when you hang out at Davos."

It’s a cheeky jab that illustrates this problem perfectly. Advertising to children involves getting people onboard who know how to listen (and then talk) to children.

2. Build on your losses

Lego is an often cited example of a company that turned itself around. In 2003 it made a loss of over $200-million, but by 2016 it was turning profits of $1.3-billion off the back of creating toys that got children playing. 

Now, the 60-year-old bricks are featured in video games and movies, the company creates loads of interesting apps and has one of the largest community driven set-creation abilities through Lego Ideas.

Yes, their profits recently fell, but Lego is currently worth eight times more than Fisher Price. With a solid vision and mission – to help children use its toys to boost education (basically to 'play well', as Lego roughly translates to) – Lego remains a lighthouse in stormy seas. 

3. Talk to parents

Lola Lola do not sell their products to children. In fact, as a legal marijuana company based in the States, the company has taken a firm stand against marketing their products at the underaged. 

But, with concerned parents looking for answers surrounding drug use, Lola Lola are working hard to provide 'hype-free' facts around marijuana. Is this type of approach not valuable too when it comes to fast food menus aimed at children, or sugary sweet cereals for the breakfast table? 

4. Produce useful content

Unilever’s Omo 'Fast Kids' campaign sets out to teach 200 000 children basic maths literacy via an app. By working their way through the course, children are able to earn tokens to be used for other Unilever products, such as ice cream.

It’s an intuitive way to get children to participate, while Omo’s sales also benefit. Access to the first month of 'Fast Kids' is free, but moms need to buy Omo afterwards for further access tokens.

While parents can certainly see the benefit of purchasing Omo, it can be argued that strong branding makes today’s users of the app tomorrow’s customers of the brand.

5. Bring in the positive

Bakers Mini-Cricket was the longest running developmental sports programme in South Africa, at the crease for a massive 27-year long innings.

While tennis biscuits aren’t exactly the healthiest treat to snack on, the brand managed to encourage a healthy lifestyle through sport (the mini-cricket bat has been taken up by KFC).

It’s a case study many 'made for kids' food brands can learn from – bring in the positive. Disney is a good example of a company doing just this.

The brand could draw criticism for encouraging children to sit in front of the TV or tablet, so it created a website called Disney Healthy Living, which encourages an active lifestyle.

On the site, there are loads of videos and information on playful activities, and even healthy recipes children and parents can cook together. The House of Mouse knows the importance of family, and only the cynical will say they are using this to their own advantage. 

While marketing to children can generate huge rewards and lifelong product loyalty, it is not an easy exercise. It involves more skill and nuance than the average marketer would like to admit.

And with social media ready to pounce on any wrong move, this tightrope act has serious consequences for those getting it wrong.

*This article was originally published on media update.

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