The best way to know your consumers is to spend time with them. You observe, explore and gain insights that no quantitative research will extract for you. Recently I had the opportunity to interact with children aged about eight years old (Grade 3). The topic of our discussion was ‘Communication and Advertising’. This changed my perception about ‘children as consumers’.
Brand managers usually say the following: “Children don’t remember the brands they consume, which is why we have to spend to ensure brand recall.” “Kids are not bothered about the setting of the retail outlet.”“Children are only attracted to cartoon based advertising.” “Once children like your brand, there is no need to worry." “Adult social themes don’t work for children; they are too complex to understand”.
The above are myths that managers have developed about children as consumers.
Myth #1 – Children don’t remember the brands they consume
No but yes. When you ask them about the name of their favourite ice-cream, most of them will tell you about the flavours ( chocolate-cookie, chocolate nuts, vanilla cream etc.,). Some will also say Magnum chocolate, Cornetto chocolate chips and Omore cookies and cream. They mention the brands only when they perceive the brand name as a part of the flavour.
Myth #2 – Kids are not bothered about the setting of the retail outlet
Actually children are very observant. They will tell you about the different posters they noticed in the retail stores they go to, and especially about the things that interest them. For example, the freezer plays an important role. They open it, scan through the ice-cream and pick one. It engages them with the product. They like to make the decision themselves and the retail outlet’s layout is critical in helping children enjoy the environment and feel empowered.
Myth #3 – Children are only attracted to cartoon based advertisements
There are too many cartoon based advertisements and their message is lost in the clutter. An effective advertisement for children has about four main elements; it should be funny, colourful, surprising, and engaging.
Myth #4 – Once children like your brand, there is no need to worry
Of course children can be attracted to a brand if it catches their attention and they develop interest in it. However, this doesn’t mean they will not doubt your product and the underlying advertising message. For example McDonald’s advertisements. Children like them and understand the message: McDonald’s brings happiness. However, they will also tell you that it is not true because McDonald’s sells unhealthy junk food. Therefore, you can eat McDonald’s once in a while but not regularly.
Myth #5 – Adult social themes don’t work for children; they are too complex to understand
Marketers underestimate the creativity and analytical skills of today’s child. They are quick in imagination and narrative building. Perhaps this is the reason why adults need to be very careful what they show them. Take the Dabur’s Gulabari TVC.
Girls not only like it, they also make the comments similar to young women. For example, “it showed an independent girl wearing beauty cream.” “Yes, girls can do whatever they want.” “We should not judge people by their appearance”. “I want to be a pretty, independent girl.” When I specifically asked them if they liked the Fair & Lovely TVC (95% of them had seen the TVC) or Dabur’s TVC (none had seen it before), 90 % of them said they liked the Dabur TVC, despite knowing that the Fair & Lovely was about being a fair, pretty, and confident young woman.
Disclaimer: The writer does not promote any of the brands mentioned and doesn’t have any affiliation with these brands. They are used only as examples.
Dr Farrah Arif is Professor of Marketing, Suleman Dawood School of Business (SDSB), Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).