Marketing to Children

marketing to children

The Makings of Brand Loyalty

The experience of shopping with a child, who let’s face it, has all the power of purchase at their fingertips, is interesting at best. The scenario goes as follows: wondrous eyes navigate the bounty of tempting goodies surrounding them. Small, excited faces gleam with excitement in anticipation of filling their hands with anything within reach that speaks to them, followed by a chorus of “I want” and “Mommy buy me this.” The point of sale (POS) posters and bright colors all around the establishment make it much more enticing for a youngster to want to patronize establishments, and that much harder for the parent to play the bad cop and turn away from the opportunity. Smart, effective marketing efforts play a huge role in grabbing a child’s attention and can have significant long-term effects on brand loyalty.

When Does It All Begin?

Marketing to children is one of the best things a business can do for their brand, as proven by “cradle to grave” marketing. According to the televised news report “Eye to Eye: Marketing to Kids,” moderated by journalist Katie Couric, the cradle to grave technique of marketing to 0-3 year olds is a method utilized to gain a customer for life. This premeditated system is meant to form a trust factor and create a business relationship, allowing the young consumer to epitomize brand loyalty throughout their lifetime and therefore spend thousands of dollars as a result.

The greater idea behind this and marketing to children in general is that the moment a child can see, that child becomes a consumer. Based on this, companies capitalize on very colorful, fun characters that children can relate to in an effort to increase consumerism among small children. And because children are automatically intrigued by what excites them, their vocals make it almost impossible for anyone in the immediate area not to get the hint.

What a Nag!

Children are often described as cute, adorable or a gift to humanity, but in certain instances they can be quite the nag. There is no doubt that children tend to sound like a broken record when there is something they want, albeit attention, a toy, food, etc. A popular example of this comes from the character Stewie in “Family Guy.” In one episode, Stewie called his mother Lois by her first name five times and followed up with a variation of “Mummy, Mom, Mommy, Ma …” a staggering 22 times before she finally offers an irritated response, only for her toddler to quickly say “hi” and run out of the room.

In reality, this is just the effect companies hope to create in marketing to young children. The technique is called the Nag Factor, a method for which $22 billion per year is spent to produce the ultimate results of captivating the minds of children. The entire package utilizes advertising – television and print – psychology and in-depth research. The aim of the Nag Factor is to make children more demanding, influence adults’ purchases and promote addiction to a specific product.

In clearer terms, the Nag Factor, as defined by the Journal of Children and Media, is the tendency of children who are bombarded with marketers’ messages to unrelentingly request advertised items.

Sometimes known as the “Trojan Horse” to marketers, children ultimately employ three types of nagging styles:

• Juvenile nagging – whining, flailing arms and stomping feet

• Nagging to test boundaries – displaying public tantrums and putting refused items in the shopping cart

• Manipulative nagging – sweet talking the parent or arguing the necessity of the item because other children have it

Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power notes that advertisements must be aimed with a focus of getting a child to persuade their parents to buy things. This includes anything from breakfast cereal to alcohol. For example, Bakan highlights an occurrence when his young son nagged him to buy a certain brand of beer during the National Hockey League play-offs because it came with a Stanley Cup replica.

At a child’s nagging request, studies found that 42% of parents will make a purchase if a child asks and 34% of that interest is in the fast food market. In a study done by Morgan Spurlock, American documentary filmmaker, most known for his film “Super-Size Me,” it was recorded that when shown a picture of George Washington, America’s first documented president, 1 out of 6 children was able to identify him correctly; whereas, all participants immediately recognized fast food icons such as Wendy and Ronald McDonald.

Consumers can be manipulated into purchasing a product, or even following a brand by way of methods such as the Nag Factor, which produces 20%-40% of purchases. The Nag Factor, also known as Pestering Power, is more increasingly targeting tweens based on the influence they have in the household. According to Jason Kelley, the executive director of advertising and marketing agency, Brand X, the tween market alone is worth $10 billion globally. He suggests that communicating with tweens is imperative for marketers to execute, undoubtedly for 10 billion lucrative reasons.

“We’re relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product, rather than going straight to the mom,” says Barbara A. Martino, advertising executive. But what are the best ways to get these messages out?

Effective Tactics for Kids

In “9 Tips for Marketing to Kids and Teens Successfully,” posted by the, the Young Entrepreneur Council, comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs, offer their best answers to the question formerly posted: What are the best ways to get your message out to the most influential age groups of consumers – kids and tweens?

Suggestions included:

• Advertising on music platforms such as, Spotify and Pandora

• Bringing product to high-density areas such as malls, fairs and schools where there will be an abundance of kids and teens

• Utilizing pictures, graphics and short sentences less than 140 characters to cater to a short attention spans

• Hooking curiosity with methods that strum emotions such as laughter, tears, dislike or deep thought

• Paying attention to what new social networks these age groups are utilizing

• Being relatable and relevant

• Responding quickly to social media posts

• In the age of imagery and rapid motion, posting shareable videos online

In the case of marketing to children, there is a plethora of creative ways to successfully reach your overall goals. Implementing recognizable cartoons and figures on colorful packaging is also a successful marketing tactic targeting younger children that has proven successful for decades, as confirmed by Young consumers are tremendously important to the longevity of business and the bottom line. Though children may not be the bread winners of the family, they hold the purchasing power.

Big Market, Small Consumer

According to a recent YTV Kids and Tweens Report, kids have the power to influence such events as where the family will go for casual meals; clothing purchases; software purchases and family entertainment choices. Additionally, parents sometimes experience guilt because hectic work schedules take away from time they could be spending with their children, which also plays a part in superficial purchases on behalf of a child. Fast food giant McDonald’s is a great example of marketing guilt on their apple pie packaging, with the wording, “Mom didn’t have time today, so we made you a baked pie.” If the child asks, they shall receive for more reasons than simply being cute. However, disposable income and guilt are not the only allies marketers have to utilize toward gaining the attention of their target market.

Advertainment: The Voice of a New Generation

Star power never fails to capture the attention of children and tweens (and maybe their parents, too). In marketers’ ongoing mission to analyze and create demand for products, athletes successfully sell cereals and sports drinks; musicians have the uncanny ability to make almost anything much more enticing than the average Joe next door; and animated characters, especially from the movie Frozen, have a strong

liking with young crowds. Interactive digital platforms such as mobile marketing, online rewards programs, games and buzz campaigns (which use influential young brand sirens to increase digital word of mouth marketing among peers) are all avenues employed to saturate the market and stay ingrained in the world of the young.

The world is a colorful place, which is captivating to children. Young, impressionable minds who suffer from daily cases of FOMO (fear of missing out), create a phobia marketers can easily capitalize on and influence purchasing. Ethical or not, creative messaging impacts the attention of a child and carries over to adulthood, thereby cultivating long-term brand loyalty, consumer trust and vitality.