The article raises an issue of marketing to children. Companies usually do not readily admit that they promote products to children, despite the fact that they are selling products to children as a customer group. The reason behind it is that the subject of marketing to children is ethically sensitive. Nevertheless, the article tells how marketers can reach children in order to communicate the value of companies’ products and build strong customer relationships.
Authors: Anna Elizarova and Riku Nummikoski
Marketing to children
The question how companies whose products are designed for children can improve marketing communications was studied in the Bachelor’s thesis of Anna Elizarova (2018) on an example of the case company that produces modular programmable robotics kits for children 6-12 years of age. The article gives a brief introduction to the research and discusses additional ways of understanding promotional activities in child-oriented businesses.
In marketing research, children are interesting primarily as consumers. Children represent a large group of the population, they are also major buyers of certain types of products, e.g. toys and sweets. Besides, children are responsive to marketing messages and strongly influenced by advertising. Children’s significance as consumers and consumption influencers was recognised in the 1950s. Very young children begin to develop preferences and most of them are able to recognize brands from the age of three. (Preston 2016.)
Child-oriented markets are growing since women in the developed countries tend to have fewer children and have them later in life than it used to be in the past. Thanks to this, parents commonly have more resources available at the time when they have children, especially in dual-working families. This contributes to richer parents, better-educated children and a more sophisticated market for children. In addition, thanks to these traits, parents and children have increasingly well-informed, refined tastes and opinions in the sphere of consumerism. (Gunter & Furnham 2008.)
To develop marketing communications in a company whose products are designed for children, it is essential to deepen understanding of children as a customer group. Children just like adults are economically active members of society. However, their needs, values and perceptions differ from what adults have. To promote products to children, a number of factors should be considered.
First and foremost, children at different stages of their cognitive development have different needs, abilities and consumer behaviour patterns. The youngest children at the age of three are able to recognise brands and logos. Approximately at the age of 6 children start reading, they are exposed largely to different types of media, and they have their own attitudes towards brands. The controversial thing is that it is still dubious whether children of these ages are able to recognize the persuasive intent of commercial messages fully, especially due to advancements in online marketing. Young people have powers to like, dislike and even reject certain products. Between the analytical stage of 7-11 years, they shift from egocentric orientation to a point when they start to differentiate points of view.
Second, children as consumers are affected by several influential agents – parents, peers, mass media and a direct experience. Doing marketing to children is to a certain extent a rewarding business since children are a fairly homogeneous group around the industrialised world. Children’s culture is less sophisticated than the culture of adults. Children of young age globally share very much the same needs and wants. It does not mean that children are the same everywhere, but that they have more in common than they have differences. (Marshall 2010, 1-16.)
Third, children influence family purchases. This is happening because parents ask for advice from their children and because children can pressure parents to buy certain products. They can do it both ways: pestering parents with perseverance over and over again and communicating the importance of the product for them. (MediaSmarts 2018.)
Social Media and Children
Social media companies often place age limits for children below a certain age, in case of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube the threshold is of 13 years old. In many states, laws govern the collection of data about children. It means that children cannot use a certain type of websites without a parental consent. Nevertheless, primary-age children use the Internet and social media to stay connected, mobile and social with their friends. Children use a wide variety of internet-enabled devices such as computers, laptops, mobile devices and game consoles. Moreover, they are not always using it under parental control and supervision, but also at schools and at friends’ houses. In any case, they are largely exposed to social media, and for many of them, this is an integral part of life. (O’Neale 2013; Jamieson 2016.)
Currently, YouTube is the biggest children’s entertainment platform in the world. Video content, in general, is more popular with millennials. Nearly two thirds of millennials would rather watch a video from a brand than read a text. In terms of video marketing, specialists agree that it is essential, not optional to use videos to promote brands. Millennials find watching videos helpful while shopping online, and statistics say that the likelihood of reading newsletters with a video in it increases. The same can be said about Generation Z. Visual information is so powerful because it is processed by brain much faster. Moreover, people remember stories better than hard facts. In fact, images and videos tell stories faster than text. (Gillett, R. 2014.)
Children are the future
The marketing communications to children established to make a positive impact on consumer’s lives, e.g. for educational purposes solely, is beneficial for both companies and children. Responsible companies promote healthier choices for children, advice and support parents on products and services for their children and protect children as such. Such companies communicate values of their product in a way that is easy to understand for children, assisting parents in engaging them in healthier diets, educational process and etc. For instance, the case company has developed a robot that teaches children robotics and coding that will prepare children for their future and promote its services to children. All in all, marketers in child-oriented businesses reach children directly accidentally and intentionally, and the author of the article wishes to emphasize the positive outcomes of such practices.
Elizarova, A. 2018. Understanding Children as a Customer Group. Case: Company X. [Online document]. Bachelor’s thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 12 June 2018]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2018061213551
Gillett, R. 2014. Why We’re More Likely to Remember Content with Images and Video (Infographic). Fast Company. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited 13 May 2018]. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3035856/why-were-morelikely-to-remember-content-with-images-and-video-infogr
Gunter, B., Furnham A. 2008. Children as consumers. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Jamieson, S. 2016. Children ignore age limits by opening social media accounts. The Telegraph . [Electronic magazine]. [Cited 7 June 2018]. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/children/12147629/Childrenignore-age-limits-by-opening-social-media-accounts.html
Marshall, D. 2010. Understanding Children as Consumers. London, United Kingdom: SAGE Publications.
MediaSmarts. 2018. How Marketers Target Kids. [Cited 7 June 2018]. Available at: http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/media-issues/marketing-consumerism/how-marketers-target-kids
O’Neale, R. 2013. Kids online: The statistics. KidsMatter. [Cited 7 June 2018]. Available at: https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/health-and-community/enewsletter/kids-online-statistics
Preston, C. 2016. Pre-school children and marketing communication. International Journal of Consumer Studies. Vol.40(5), 618-623.
About the authors
Anna Elizarova has studied International Business at Lahti University of Applied Sciences and has graduated and received a BBA degree in June 2018.
Riku Nummikoski works as a Lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management, Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
Illustration: https://pixabay.com/en/aroni-arsa-children-little-model-738302/ (CC0)
Reference to this publication
Elizarova, A. & Nummikoski, R. 2018. Marketing communications in a company whose products are designed for children. LAMK Pro. [Electronic magazine]. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2018/06/13/marketing-communications-in-a-company-whose-products-are-designed-for-children/