“Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave, when they think that their children are naive.” – Ogden Nash
Children have been marketed to for years. Retail industry titans have recognized that targeting children and winning their loyalty can carry on throughout their entire lifetime. In some cases, this lifetime customer completes the full cycle and re-introduces some of the same brands to their children. Establishing brands in the minds of our children can be powerful.
I remember joining the Pepsi-Tiger Fan Club as a kid. For about $30, I received tickets to select Detroit Tigers games in the outfield, Pepsi wristbands, a hot dog and a drink, autograph pictures with a Pepsi logo on it, all packaged in a Pepsi mini duffle bag. My parents would load up the neighbor kids and we would all go to the game. We were excited to be a part of this club and consequentially, it was no wonder that Pepsi was my beverage of choice growing up. Membership at such a young age carried great significance as a child.
Kids want to feel significant in their own lives and in the lives of their parents. Joining the Pepsi-Tiger Fan Club meant a lot to me as a kid in that it established a feeling of accomplishment and acceptance as a club member. I was proud to be associated with the Tigers and Pepsi was the benefactor of my beverage preferences for many years. Developing marketing programs that make kids feel important has a tremendous influence over their buying patterns in the future.
Here are some considerations for marketing to kids:
Make It An Adventure: Kids love intrigue and adventure. Creating a learning experience that also informs kids of your products is an excellent way to captivate their minds and loyalty. One of my favorite adventures for kids marketing was conducting store tours at Little Caesars. Kids were able to see how pizzas were made and in most cases, were allowed to make pizzas themselves and eat them after with their parents. Invariably, Little Caesars became the pizza choice of the family as fond memories of that excursion were recalled. A field trip to Little Caesars was always top on their list of wants.
It’s A Digital World: It is a different world today compared to when I was a kid. According to the National Consumers League, “nearly six out of 10 parents of so-called “tweeners” — children aged 8 to 12 — have purchased cell phones for their kids. Only 4% of those tweeners have basic phones with no Internet or texting access. About half have mobile phones with texting capabilities, another 20% have non-smartphones with texting and web access and 27% have smartphones.” That’s a world that will continue to grow and marketers need to be aware how to tap it. Creating an interactive link to your products as opposed to a passive advertisement, will help cement the memory.
Step Into Their World: If you want to market to a kid, think like a kid. Much like the character Josh Baskin in the movie Big, the 12-year-old turned 30, he becomes effective creating kids toys because he is in fact, still a kid. Watching the interactions of kids with other kids or with products, offers a tremendous glimpse into how a kid thinks. I often sit back and marvel at how many clues kids give you just simply by observing them. A kid, like Josh Baskin’s character, will not hold back in their assessment of a product or its attributes. A kid either likes it or he doesn’t and isn’t necessarily political correct in their opinion. Watch, listen and learn.
Be A Hero To Their Parents: Developing programs that benefit kids and parents is a win-win. When I was at Little Caesars as well as Clark Retail Enterprises, I developed an effective coupon book program where kids sold coupon books on our behalf in order to raise funds for their teams. It was a simple-to-execute, effective program that benefited teams, benefitted the parents by raising funds and my company. The program’s goals included: a) ease of execution; b) reducing costs of sponsorship for the company; c) building the brand in your community; and d) being a money-maker for the teams. It achieved all four and parents were appreciative of the program. In the end, the kids were happy and showed their patronage to our companies.
In reaching out to children, marketers often rely on the instant gratification offer of a prize or toy. While that may capture a child’s eye once, it also commoditizes your product in their eyes. I would argue that attempting to reach a kid on a deeper level will establish a greater loyalty to your products and establish a life-long connection.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.