Understanding kids critical to successful kids marketing

By , agencyfaqs! | In | April 24, 2003
The Kid Marketing Forum sought to answer questions such as what drives brand loyalty among children and how successful children's brands are built

An opportunity: In sheer numbers, the potential to market brands to kids in India is bigger than the market potential of the whole of Western Europe. A threat: Globally, 'tweens' (kids in the 8-to-14 age group) are 40-per cent less loyal to brands as compared to adults.

These were just two of the many contrasting realities that emerged at the Nickelodeon-Brand Equity Kid Marketing Forum held in Mumbai yesterday. The forum, which had a distinguished array of speakers from India and abroad, served as a sounding board for ideas on marketing brands and products to kids. Among the questions that were raised and answered were those on the influence kids exert on purchase, what drives brand loyalty among children, what fundamentally appeals to children and how successful children's brands get built and command loyalty over extended periods in time.

Speaking from the researcher's perspective, Jamie Lord, director, marketing & business development - Asia-Pacific, Millward Brown, maintained that understanding today's tweens was critical to understanding tomorrow's consumer. Drawing from Millward Brown's international research document, BrandChild, Lord revealed that there are three fundamental aspects to kids marketing - pester power, the fact that kids and adults form similar associations with brands and the fact that children influence purchase even in traditional 'adult' categories.

"Kids can request brand names by the age of three, can associate with brand values by the age of 10 and display loyalty to brands by the age of 11," he says. "Brand loyalty peaks at the age of 11, but drops off by the age of 13. Clearly, the trick here is to catch them young." Lord also points out that if brands are to retain loyalty among children, clarity and consistency of the communication message is a must. "When it comes to kids, having good products is not enough. You have to tap into kids' emotional needs."

Interpreting some of the findings of the research from an Indian context, Neerja Wable, senior vice-president & executive director, IMRB, and head of Millward Brown India, revealed that Indian tweens still place a lot of importance on honouring tradition. "'Being better than others' is also seen as a very important factor by Indian children, but the attribute 'I want to be famous' is highest in India, with 90 per cent of children desiring fame," she says. She added that the research showed that Indian tweens are very optimistic and positive about the future, when compared to tweens from other countries.

The Millward Brown study also shows that more often than not, kids and adults share similar bonds with the same brands. "Yes, the degree of bonding among kids is not as high as that among adults (kids are 40 per cent less loyal to brands), but the fact that a similarity exists shows that this can be leveraged to the brand's benefit," observes Lord. Wable further pointed out that globally, children influence purchases even in adult categories. "Fifty eight per cent of kids admit that their opinion is sought (by parents) and given, even in non-obvious categories," she says. "In some ways, kids almost provide expert opinion, especially since they know a lot about modern technology. In fact, in rural India, kids are often better placed to advice parents as the kids are the literate members in the family."

Specific to brand loyalty, Wable reveals that among tweens, peer pressure drives loyalty. "There is a strong urge to conform to peer groups and gain acceptance," she points out. "The need to 'belong' is felt by 81 per cent of kids." Which is why Lord stresses the need to focus on the peer-to-peer factor while marketing to kids. "It is important for tweens to know your brand and bond with it," he adds, "which is why it is important to find insights that appeal to kids. We also have to discover a new language to talk to kids."

Speaking to kids in their language is something that Nicky Parkinson, managing director, Nickelodeon UK, also advocates. She also pointed out that it is erroneous to look at kids as a single homogenous group, considering there are huge differences in the way four- and 14-year-olds look at things. Urging marketers to look at new ways of reaching out to kids, Parkinson demonstrated how Nickelodeon segmented its offering in the UK to cater to kids of different age groups.

Ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakar, of Genesis Films, argued that kids do not see advertising as advertising, but as entertainment. "If you appeal to kids and adults alike it's good for you, but if your advertising doesn't appeal to kids, you lose half your audience," he says. Drawing from his filmmaking experience, Kakar also spent time explaining how allowing child models to have fun at the shoot and "be themselves" helped make better ads. He also strongly urged marketers to curb the tendency to talk down to kids. "Treat kids as equals," he said, adding that the use of celebrities in ads targeted at kids will work "as long as the celebrity has been used properly, and is not condescending".

Leo Burnett India's CEO & Chairman, Arvind Sharma, shared some of his thoughts on what it takes to grow a kid's brand. Sharma pointed out that the most significant aspects about today's kids are that they have short attention spans, they apply a different logic to things and they have answers to everything. "The challenge is to understand children's logic and try and meet their rising quest for variety," he says. "The problem is, how do you build a kid's brand when a brand is all about continuity, and today's kids are seeking variety?"

Sharma seeks an answer in cartoons. "Children's loyalty to cartoons is unparalleled - kids love cartoons in a way no brand can aspire. Now what is it about a cat chasing a mouse (Tom & Jerry) that has kids coming back for more?" Same cat and mouse. Different situations. Same pizza. Different toppings. "When you have a fundamental promise which is likeable, all you need is to add new toppings for variety," Sharma says. He cites long-playing successes such as Barbie (constant add-ons in the form of Barbie situations and accessories), Heinz Ketchup ('talking labels') and McDonald's (Ronald and Happy Meals) to make his point. "In all these instance, the 'toppings' kept changing, adding variety and keeping interest up," he says. "And while marketing to kids could be expensive, it needn't always be. Frito-Lay's 'tazzos' or Binaca's 'animal miniatures' are inexpensive examples of how variety can keep a brand going."

Marketing to kids cannot be divorced from parental approval, a fact touched upon by Julia Lipari, senior vice-president, Jive Records & the Zomba Group. "Parental approval has to be taken into account as mom continues to be the gatekeeper," she says. Lipari shared a couple of case studies on how US-based marketers used popular music for kid's promotions. Uday Singh, managing director, Columbia Tristar Films, also addressed the forum by explaining how the studio's box-office grosser Spiderman was marketed in India.

All said and done, it was actor and activist Anupam Kher's (who delivered the opening address) poignant observation that left those assembled with something to chew upon. "While everything that kid's marketers are doing is good, I would be happy if something is done for less privileged children," he says. "And the critical thing is that we market also market honesty, sincerity and simplicity." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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