My experiences have likely been a marketer’s dream. As a parent who has watched my kids and their friends grow up, I’ve made plenty of observations. It’s true. Kids are more sophisticated today. They take to the latest technological marvels effortlessly. They’re media savvy and exposed to a lot more much sooner in life. As a result, they’re growing up faster than we ever did.
With this in mind, marketing campaigns aimed at kids are more sophisticated than ever. Traditional advertising is still exploited, but social media has them even more enthused. So many platforms… so many opportunities to increase their exposure with sophisticated messaging, games and videos. And, the same goes for brand-centric web sites. Make it as interactive and entertainment-oriented as possible and kids will love it and get hooked on the brands that engage them in this manner, right?
Connecting with the various kid demographics
Very young children can be taken in with these tactics because they’re trusting; they don’t yet understand the difference between entertainment and marketing, increasing the need for parental vigilance and guidance. This is not to say that most kids’ brands are harmful by nature because they aren’t. Marketers want to sell their products by enticing the young for three reasons: they have plenty of discretionary income, influence parental purchases and there’s potential that they can become brand fans for life. Because kids engage heavily in word of mouth marketing to their peers, exponentially speaking, the sky’s the limit.
Making it cool not by trying to be, but by being an authentic, original brand with a distinct personality will always resonate with kids. Keeping it real is the path to success.
For tweens and teens, brands have to be authentic and honest. Slick marketing makes them suspicious. As kids get older, they pick up on anything that smacks of phoniness or a hard sell. Sure, they love playing games and watching videos on web sites but if these are coupled by a hard pitch to sell products, they aren’t fooled. They’ll run from such brands in droves. Nor can brands talk down to them. Also at issue: brands that try to be something that they aren’t, or try too hard to ingratiate themselves with kids, raise a big red flag. Making it cool by not trying to be, but by being an authentic, original brand with a distinct personality will always resonate with kids. Keeping it real is the path to success.
Leveraging brand drivers to appeal to kids
Kids respond to the genuine and one-of-a-kind. Just as with adults, kids aren’t interested in purchasing products; they’re looking for branded experiences that are unique. Research shows that there are eight cool brand drivers for kids.
- Sleek, high tech or otherwise engaging design
- Category stand out
- Unique, highly differentiated branding
- Presents the brand with humor
- Fluid, ever-changing, delivering surprise and pleasure
- Creative and worthy of buzz
- Gives kids choices; lets them personalize their brand experiences
- Positive, upbeat; has its own attitude
No single attribute creates coolness or credibility with kids, a combination of elements do. Delivering brands in interactive, social environments enables kids to share their favorites with their friends. They may be savvy consumers but they’re still kids. Translation: brands are expected to not only be cool but to be fun.
The importance of design in delivering brands to kids
Knowing all of this, is it any wonder that kids of every age embrace Disney, Barbie, Marvel, Transformers and Lego as cool toy and entertainment brands? Note that these are heritage brands with histories, so the fact that they stay true to themselves while evolving to remain relevant is crucial. Of interest here is that design plays such an important role in engaging kids. Clever, innovative products are presented in well-designed packaging; on engaging web sites and social media platforms; all work holistically to deliver the brand.
But, children, like adults, respond to visual brand communication before verbal communication. And, it’s simple to understand why. Do a simple test. Recall a favorite brand like Apple. No doubt, this has recalled a visual image in your mind first and then brand-related word associations, such as “innovation,” “high tech ground breakers” and “new category makers.”
The role of package design in authenticating kids brands
Well-designed products will enjoy strong sales if presented in well-designed packaging. Poorly-designed or even average packaging will slow the sales of the hottest branded products, and worse: it cheapens and does damage to the brand image and shelf presence. Packaging must align with the brand in every respect. It must deliver the brand in a credible, authentic and transparent manner. It’s obvious that kids’ favorite brands do exactly that when it comes to packaging.
With ten surprises in one package, the Barbie Cutie Reveal dolls package may be the cutest unboxing experience ever. The structure itself – a cylindrical tube – is a stand-out in the doll category. Young girls will open the package to find a soft, plush animal character. When they remove the plush head and body, they’ll find a fully-posable Barbie doll with long, colorful hair and twinkle-shine face details. They’ll also find 4 surprise bags containing clothes and accessories. The package graphics does a wonderful job of showing kids what’s contained within using a combination of visual communication and simple, easy-to-understand iconography. Barbie Cutie Reveal dolls are available in three different series, each with four different cute plush characters.
The Thames & Kosmos STEM Experiment Kits packaging has a hi-tech feel, yet the aesthetic is warm and approachable rather than clinical. And the packaging visuals generate a ton of excitement and promise a fun experience. For example, the front panel of the Mega Cyborg Hand package is filled with a large photo of the assembled product on a deep blue background reminiscent of a blueprint. The product name is consistently placed and easy to find. The descriptor lets consumers know that you can build your own giant, wearable, adjustable hydraulic hand. Call-outs highlight its “amazing gripping capabilities,” its “gigantic size” and “impressive dexterity,” and the fact that you can learn about modern pneumatic and hydraulic technology.
Getting package design right delivers the “cool” factor
For kids, and for all consumers, packaging should authenticate the brand and support it with the right kinds of visual and verbal communication. It should make product and brand a stand-out and engage consumer emotions. And, it should create memorable experiences. But, most of all, it should be authentic and unique. If it delivers these things, then it will be considered a “cool” brand. Way cooler than anything else.
Competitors? What competitors?