Being the go-to-brand for children is a challenging task. The customer and the consumer are in two different camps; this is unlike many other markets. It’s crucial that children’s brands are authentic and supportive, to become a household name that parents trust, and kids love.
Professors of marketing, Eileen Bridges and Richard A. Briesch (2006), identify brand loyalty as a key challenge. It is argued that children do not perceive long-term value in the same way as adults. As a result, companies need to take unique approaches to advertising for young audiences.
Despite the argument against long-term value, it’s believed brand recognition is evident from the age of two. Valkenburg and Buijzen, professors in strategic communication, measured results in different age groups (2005). It was found by the age of eight, children could recognise 100% of brand logos in their study. This is an important element of brand awareness which is defined as “one’s active and passive knowledge of a particular brand” (p.457). This is often measured by the ability to recognise and recall a brand. In retail environments, recognition is more important as buyers can compare against alternatives on the shelf. In other contexts, it’s crucial for customers to successfully recall a brand.
Therefore, it is argued there is a crucial brand loyalty difference between children and teenagers. This is echoed by Bridges and Briesch (2006). Furthermore, marketing practitioner, Mindy F. Ji (2002) emphasised children continue to develop relationships with a range of brands. They are imbedded in childhood and are evident throughout. Children’s brands must be prepared to play the long-game and sustain their audience’s interest over years of their life.
What Can Brands Do?
In order to simulate long-term value and brand loyalty, children’s brands must create a constant stream of fun messages. Advertisements often focus on new, exciting features of products and tie-in purchases. They include: new characters, bonus offers, and limited-edition collections. This will help to hold children’s attention who are likely to switch brands dependent on whichever product features excite them most.
There are many examples of this, however, Heinz have been described as pioneers of the strategy (Bridges and Briesh, 2006). They introduced EZ Squirt Ketchup which delivered novelty and inspired Ore-Ida Fries and Kraft Macaroni Cheese. Rob Owen - American journalist - highlights Nickelodeon as another brand success story (2019). The kids’ network recently turned forty and he suggests it owes its success to the company’s creative culture. They continue to develop new offerings and have recently expanded into films and rich media content.
Exposure to television and rich media means children are more brand conscious than ever. The infant and toddler market is a key opportunity for marketeers as they recognise the worldwide success of programmes like the Teletubbies (Valkenburg and Buijzen, 2005). It is clear that even toddlers can recognise brands, so it is important to nurture this brand relationship.
Efforts must be focused towards children despite adults being the main buyer. Bridges and Briesch (2006) concluded that American brands rely on the “nag factor” to market products. Moreover, brands should strive to encourage conversation about products between children as there is evidence to suggest peers can influence brand choices (Valkenburg and Buyzen, 2015). This is not dissimilar to adult’s word-of-mouth marketing.
This said, brands must understand the power of parents as Owen states “Millennials’ best friends are their children” (2019). Nickelodeon have seen an increase in co-viewing figures while parents have been respected by the brand. They have been written into children’s shows in a more positive light than in the brand’s early years. Ultimately, parents make the decision and it is up to brands to ensure their desires are met too.
In short, brands must engage with children in a more sensational manner than typical adult advertising, continued enthusiasm and gusto is vital to win children’s loyalty. Although, this is not to say that gimmicks and cheap thrills will secure your brand’s success! Your customer and consumer are real people with real needs, hence, they should be addressed with care and sensitivity. Heart-felt brand experiences promote awareness and generate positive conversations between parent and child.
How can you reach out to families with fast-paced, changing lifestyles and become an extended member of the family? We’d love to continue the conversation with you in the comments below.
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Bridges, E. and Briesch, R.A. 2006. The ‘nag’ factor and children’s product categories. International Journal of Advertising. 25(2), pp.157-187
Ji, M.F. 2002. Children’s relationships with brands: ‘true love’ or ‘one-night’ stand? Psychology & Marketing. 19(4), pp.369-387
Owen, R. 2019. Nickelodeon at 40: king of kids TV is still expanding its brand. [Online]. [Accessed 7 April 2019]. Available from: https://variety.com/
Valkenburg, P.M. and Buijzen, M. 2005. Identifying determinants of young children’s brand awareness: television, parents and peers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 26(4), pp.456-468