Alokananda Chakraborty

Ogilvy study maps kid insights to fine-tune communication

The purpose of the Ogilvy Discovery study is to understand the pressures and motivations of Indian children, and glean implications for brands and communication

In an attempt to gain what it terms ‘an informed perspective on the contemporary Indian child', O&M India's knowledge management unit, Ogilvy Discovery, recently conducted a national-level study on Indian children in the 4-to-12-years age bracket. Titled Inside Kid Insights, the purpose of the study is to understand the pressures and motivations of Indian children, and glean implications for brands and communication, explains Kunal Sinha, vice-president - Discovery, O&M. "We wanted to get an understanding of Indian kids which was not confined to children living in the metros alone," Sinha says, adding that the Ogilvy study covered the cities and mini-metros of Mumbai, Pune, Agra, New Delhi, Lucknow and Chennai.

Detailing the reasons for commissioning yet another study on kids, Sinha says, "Most existing studies on kids were fairly superficial in their findings - for the simple reason that kids are difficult to research. If you want to know and understand kids, you can't just do focus groups. We used a combination of various techniques - learning directly from children through observation and conversations; interviews with child specialists, psychologists, parents, teachers and sessions with specialized child trainers; focus groups with kids; media ethnology of children's magazines, comics and television commercials; and scrapbook exercises - to try and get under the skin of today's kids. The bigger objective was to map the insights and see how we could use these insights to fine-tune communication targeted at kids."

Sharing some of the broad findings of the study with agencyfaqs!, Sinha reveals that the study has thrown up some dominant themes/insights pertaining to the contemporary Indian child. These themes include Rushed-Regimented Childhood, Death of Delayed Gratification, Poor and Selective Socialization, Weaker Sibling Bonding, Outdoors - Out of the front door, Retracing Culture with Grandparents, Fathers Tending to be Mothers and The Character Rage.

With the increasing incidence of nuclear families and dual-income households, parents are rushing the child into a strongly regimented and hugely evaluative world, the study notes. As a result, grooming happens as per the convenience of parents, with the concept of time giving way to ‘quality time'. Critical developmental stages in the kid's life also get skipped in the process, the study reveals, and there is a gradual shift from personal attention to professional attention (the use of professional birthday organizers, for instance). The child is ‘driven by performance instead of learning', while ‘compare, compete and compel' is the motto parents swear by.

Instant gratification is the order of the day, with no place for patience or denial. "The child often taps the feeling of guilt in the parent to get his or her way, and the guilt is triggering purchases," says Sinha. A fallout is that the materialization of one is leading to materialization of the rest, best explained by way of the spread of theme birthday parties, as a concept.

Poor and Selective Socialization is the direct result of ‘the movement away from joint families, with fewer people to learn from and interact with', the study notes. Shrinking diversity in social circles, the fact that kids no longer run errands for their mothers and rising individualism are also contributing to poor socialization. Interestingly, the study points out that with parents having limited time for kids, there is a rising incidence of peer bonding among children. Also of interest is the absence of strong sibling bonding among today's kids. The study notes that the rising incidence of single or two-child families, the increasing age-gap between children, poor parental moderation and increasing child-product interplay (read more gadget-oriented kids) have contributed to the weakening of the sibling bonds.

The great outdoors have simply gone out of children's lives, the study also reveals. The lack of space and of time to play, increased gadget adoption, a shrinking friends circle, parents' insecurity in letting the kid out with others or alone and the increased incidence of guided play (training) are the factors contributing to this.

Interestingly, there is an increased focus on the part of parents to help their kids retrace their culture. This is partly explained by the fact that parents see a disconnect with religious/cultural values, and believe the Western programming content on television is reprogramming kids. And even more interestingly, it is the family elders (grandparents) who fulfill the task of retracing culture through storytelling. ‘Parents do not remember stories, and often have no time to tell those that they still do,' notes the study. Grandparents fill that need-gap as they have the time and the inclination. In fact, the study notes an affinity between grandparents and grandchildren, based on mutual appreciation and support.

One of the themes that the study touches upon in great detail is The Character Rage. The study looks at the global success of Pokemon, and explores its appeal among kids. Involvement, empowerment (of the characters and the kids), management and control and the ever-changing nature of the game are cited as some of the reasons why the game works so well among kids. The study also deconstructs the meaning of characters through a semiotic analysis of kids' visual media. "A media ethnology of popular comics such as Chacha Chaudhary, Billu, Raman, Pinki, Shaktimaan, James Bond, Champak, Chandamama, Archie and Tinkle gives an insight into what these comics help kids express, and into underlying kids needs," says Sinha.

The comics unlock the victor in every kid, offer the scope for fantasy in real life, create imagery where kids make the difference, ensure the bully who is bashed, and reflect empowerment of and leadership by kids. The study also shows kids have a strong connect with heroes, and suggests the kind of heroes that would appeal to kids of different ages. Deconstructing scrapbooks also shows that there is a strong desire for power and control in children, and heroes change from imaginary to real between younger and older kids. The scrapbooks also mirror a desire to ‘break free'.

Dwelling on the implications of these findings, the study surmises that ‘Kids lack any sense of control over their own lives or destiny at this stage. Constrained by the rules and demands of parents, school and authority figures, their dreams revolve around power and autonomy, a place where their own will can finally have its day. Because this power is out of their reach in reality, they are left to retreat to a fantasy world at times… A reversal of power has enormous appeal with kids, demonstrating an understanding of their frustration and offering a way out… Kids have endless desires but are acutely aware of the barriers before them. The challenge is to help them overcome these obstacles: To create an environment where they have the facade of power; to turn the world upside down - even for just thirty seconds…'

The study also looks at advertising and kids with the objective of understanding, through analysis of communication, how brands are depicting kids and trying to build a strong ‘child connect'. ‘Ultimately, to gain a deeper insight into the kid's world and culminate that understanding into more effective communication towards them,' the study says. One of the more startling findings of this aspect of the study was the gender bias in advertising. ‘Sixty-two per cent of the ads analysed (32 out of 52, that is) depicted boys only, in spite of the fact that most of the product categories are popular amongst both genders,' the study reveals. ‘Only five of the ads depicted only girls, without the presence of their male counterparts. Twenty-one per cent depicted boys and girls. However, boys seemed to have a more significant role.' The study further notes that some of the common themes in advertising targeted at kids include transformation, physical activity (where storylines centered at sport - usually cricket), competition, challenging the supremacy of an older person, and magic and fantasy.

"What we have learnt from all this in terms of implications for brand communication is that there are a number of big opportunities, untapped areas and exclusive kid spaces that we can tap into while creating advertising that is either directed at kids or has relevance to kids," says Sinha. "There are clear need-gaps that brands can help fill or meet." © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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