It is for the latest craze or must have toy, every parent will at some point have had to deal with a clothes tugging child pleading for some item or another. Parents are often reluctant to give in without prior knowledge of what they are being asked to buy; others feel guilty for saying no and head straight to the shops.
With more than 400 brands recognized by the average 10 year old, the challenge for marketers is to ensure their brand’s product is attractive to both children and parents.
Getting the balance right between the two groups is not only complicated, but also carries with it the risks of litigation, controversy and negative associations, should a particular campaign backfire.
One brand that manages to target children pertinently is the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It’s ‘Food 4 Thought’ and ‘Junk monkeys’ campaigns encourage the young to think about the food they eat.
Heart disease is not something that magically hits a 50-year-old man out of the blue lifestyle plays a key role and looking after your heart from an early age has a very important part to play.
Choosing the right channel through which to target a young audience is vital. With food brands battling against the restrictions on advertising to children, and the fears associated with young people and the internet, companies need to approach campaigns with caution. Including the targeting of parents and guardians can also be essential.
The younger children are, the more important it is to target peer groups, parents and people who have the greatest influence on lives. Aiming campaigns at parents is important because, ultimately, they wield the power over family spend, though control over the finances within the family unit is beginning to shift.
Overwhelmingly, women still make the big decisions regarding what to buy. Spending power is shifting away from the mother holding the purse strings for child-centric purchases towards fathers. The advent of web 2.0 has also brought an influential medium with which to reach young people.
Increasingly the first thing teens do when they get home is switch on their computer. However, a tricky challenge when approaching children is to avoid putting off their parents. Pester power is generally perceived in a negative way and ethical guidelines often rear their head. Nonetheless, it can be used in a positive way.
Pester power should be used for products or services that enrich the family’s or child’s life. We’ve certainly seen it used positively with green campaigns, getting kids to encourage parents to act in more eco-friendly ways. This is the best use of pester power because of the positive effect on families, as well as the goodwill created for the company promoting it.
Denise Aldous, sales and marketing manager at shoe firm Start-Rite, points out that the right timing is essential for her brand. It aims to target both young children and parents at ‘back-to-school’ periods. Start-Rite’s ‘When I grow up’ campaign, which used cartoon-esque illustrations to personify the types of people kids might want to be when they grow up, was a case in point.
The designs offer parents good reasons why they should buy the shoes, and give the children something bright and colorful to look at. The activity ran alongside a competition to win a trip to Disneyland Paris, with press activity attracting parents to stores.
Making marketing enjoyable and offering something to child and parent avoids negative perceptions. Conversely, targeting a harassed mum in the local shopping centre is not clever marketing long term brand acceptance