How to market to children by focusing on family moments | Insights

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Form a lasting connection with your audience by marketing to a moment

June 2021

  • Liam Egan, Director of Technology
  • Justin Renvoize, Creative Director

Working in youth entertainment, brands face a small but nagging problem when marketing their products to children: Everything.

From campaigns that issue flashy demands to “Buy Now!” to deceptive in-app ads that trigger purchases, brands can embrace the dark side when trying to sell to kids. These campaigns miss the point. The real benefits of working in this market is being able to focus on pure fun rather than just buying more stuff.

Frankly, marketing to children can feel pretty gross if your approach isn’t considered properly. However, you can avoid shaky ethical ground by shifting your message away from marketing the product and more toward marketing the moment.

Rather than driving home the hard sell, your campaign needs to focus less on the sale and more on how your product will make its customers feel. Not only does this approach provide a less unpleasant alternative for your brand’s marketing, it also builds a stronger connection between you and your customer.

Besides, we much prefer showering before work rather than after.

Marketing to a moment is built on forming relationships

Sacrificing an emphasis on the hard sell doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing your bottom line. Youth marketing can be ethically sound and still hit the target. You just need to change your perspective on the product.

For your message to resonate, you need to find a moment that demonstrates how your product will make your customers feel. Given the financial realities, parents clearly are never far from focus when marketing to youth. But the ideal message will capture a result that will resonate with every audience.

Tap into your customer’s lifestyle to bridge demographics

At We The Collective, we engage in ongoing hardware and software campaigns that aim to connect with the whole family. To communicate with children, a campaign can stick to a soft sell approach that looks to establish a relationship with your product. Imagine a kid being able to play a videogame in the backseat of the car, for example, or being able to play with their brother and sister or friends.

In one campaign, you can illustrate how a game will bring the family together, or ease the burden of a long road trip. In either case, the game provides a chance to have fun for the children in the family. For the adults, they will gain another way to connect with loved ones. Or, if they're in the car, they'll find a little quiet from the back seat.

This sort of proxy targeting is somewhat unique in our industry, and finding a campaign that appeals to every audience is the unicorn for any agency. But for us, it’s about the feelings that resonate in people’s lives and revealing the benefits in those. Once you’ve created this sort of affinity with your customer, you make a connection that can transform customers into fans who seek out your brand.

How focusing on the moment draws a connection across generations

If your product targets the youth market, your campaign has to sell an experience to kids. However, by applying a savvy nudge factor toward their parents, you can attract an audience that's just as important.

Here are a few examples where the right approach captured the imagination of both kids and their parents.

More than just blocks: How Lego renewed their fan connection

Born in Denmark shortly after the Great Depression, Lego is one of the most famous brands in the toy industry. While the company’s familiar blocks and human figurines are revered worldwide, Lego wasn’t immune to hard times. Sales declined into the early ‘00s, and soon after, they lost the patent to their iconic brick in a European court.

To stay competitive, the brand had to diversify. Lego branched out into movies, videogames, and — most importantly — licensing.

Now, instead of being restricted to generic street scenes, Lego was associated with some of the biggest brands in entertainment, including Disney, DC, and Marvel. Rather than moving to reproduce familiar “Star Wars” scenes and characters, Lego incorporated its own style that became a standalone brand.

At the end of the day, Lego sells small blocks. In a different world, their product seems like an odd fit for adults. But by aligning with familiar stories, the brand took on new resonance for both children and the adults who grew up with their products. Now, we’re living in a world where parents share moments with their kids while enjoying Lego’s toys.

How a gift guide crosses over beyond its primary audience

For one recent project, we created a digital gift guide for one of the world’s biggest videogame brands. First and foremost, any holiday guide is primarily designed to allow kids to develop lists for their parents. Kids look through new and recent game titles, mark their favorites, and get excited anticipating whatever they want most.

But on the other side of that exchange, a holiday gift guide should also appeal to the gift-buyer. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles need just as much shopping guidance. Potentially living far from the rest of their families over the holidays, these customers are eager to find a moment of connection.

To capture a different audience, we built an interactive gift finder. By asking users whether a family member loved sports games or a specific videogame character, we allowed more distant relatives to narrow the possibilities for the right gift. Instead of taking a guess on whether a popular new title was right for their nephew or grandchild, these users could make a more informed decision.

The tool still delivered on its core function of allowing kids to create a list of gifts they want and get excited about the holidays. But the project also crossed over and provided a useful resource for the whole family as well.

Form a long-lasting affinity for your brand by marketing to a moment

Ultimately, successful marketing is all about emotions. When you think about the emotions connected with your brand, you can target the short burst of satisfaction that’s derived from buying something new. It’s shiny, it’s special, but your product eventually becomes familiar to your customer and that feeling goes away.

If you tap into the emotions tied with the outcomes from using your product, you build a more lasting connection. Once that moment is realized, maybe every customer doesn’t want to buy right away. But they’ve now become a fan of your brand. When that connection is made, your sales efforts become that much easier going forward.

Obviously, avoiding a hard-sell approach isn’t the only solution. Plenty of brands will generate sales by just showing flashing messages on the screen. But that’s not the way we want to work, and it’s not how our clients want to work. If it’s not how you want your marketing to function either, we should talk.