As I write this, the Summer Holidays have started. Luckily Pokémon Go is officially available in the UK, so no one needs to worry about what their kids are up to… Unless they’re too young to go wandering around the neighbourhood alone exploring, in which case an activity involving adult supervision would be more appropriate. We’ve got a couple of yummy mummies in the Browser Media office, and yesterday one of them sent a link ‘round to the whole team after she came across Joules’ design a storybook competition.

Marketing to kids - Joules storybook comeptition landing page - browser media

To quote her email directly, “Take a look. Good fun with kids but also for us creative types…”. Well, despite my lack of children, take a look I did.

After reading about the prizes and taking in the closing date, I watched the video tutorial. What I assume to be a mother and her daughter (kitted out in clothing from Joules) return home after, I guess, a fun activity outdoors, and find themselves at a loose end. While they decide what to do next, the lion character stitched onto a nearby (Joules) shirt comes to life and, with help of a squeaky monkey and a dinosaur wearing sunglasses, encourages the pair to create a storybook together. These guys have so much fun making it and sharing it to Facebook that the girl’s younger brother creeps downstairs and has a go himself – and he only goes and wins the bloody scooter as well, the lucky lad.

The bright colours, cheerful music and cartoon characters are unmistakably aimed at enticing kids to get involved in this project, but the £1,000 Joules gift card prize and the push to share on Facebook are definitely geared towards the more mature audience. Indeed, I came to hear about it because it cropped up on my colleague’s social media feed.

It’s got me thinking about marketing to kids.

Pestering Power

Ugh. Just typing the name of this marketing tactic makes me feel dirty. Still, $17 billion dollars a year is spent by companies marketing to children. It seems the days of kids being seen-and-not-heard is long gone. Children, even young children, influence their parents’ decisions in what to eat, where to go, and what to buy. Advertisers and marketers understand the power of the nagging child, and few are afraid to use it to their advantage.

via GIPHY

Between the ages of two and eleven, children see over 25,000 adverts a year and influence $500 billion in purchases annually. Understandably, people have questioned the morals behind targeting younger children in advertising. This means businesses are faced with potentially problematic parentals, hell bent on protecting their offspring from the perils of marketing. Campaigns must be trustworthy so your efforts aren’t blocked before children get to see your product or service. Conscientiousness counts.

How do we reach these kids?

Dale Kunkel, who studies children and media issues and is a professor of Communication at the University of Arizona, found that up until the age of about eight, children simply don’t ‘get’ advertising. They don’t understand that a marketer is trying to sway their judgement or persuade them to think in a certain way.

I had a go at my own Joules storybook – purely for experimental purposes, you understand – and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no pushy brand stuff going on during the making of the book. Sure, there’s the logo on the page, and the characters you can choose from can all be found on the kids’ clothing, but the campaign feels like it’s more about appealing to the imagination. It seems Joules understands that although things have changed in terms of technology, the basic want of a child remains the same – having fun. Of course, if the kid enjoys making the book, and then Mum wants to go ahead and share it on Facebook, that’s pretty sweet – and seemingly ethical – marketing too.

Tips for marketing to kids

Have a heart. Ensure your message won’t be misunderstood, and thoroughly check, multiple times, that wording and images are appropriate and clear. If you get it wrong, at best, your campaign will tank and you’ll have dedicated time, resource and budget to something that simply hasn’t worked. Worst case scenario, there’ll be legal ramifications, you’ll be forced to terminate your campaign and your products may be pulled from shelves.

Consider the parents. If they’re not into what you’re doing, they’ve got the power to boycott. As well as emphasising the fun stuff that appeals to kids, you need to show that you’re good value.

Be brief. Kids aren’t known for their great attention spans, and so when you’re selling your product, describing your service, or encouraging children to take part in an activity, be succinct in your wording. Big blocks of long copy don’t generally appeal to anyone, and rarely scream “fun”.