Dear marketers, let’s treat kids as kids

Published: October 3, 2017 12:41 AM

A family celebration which I attended recently, ended on a very sweet note — a decadent three-layered dessert. Its creator was my nine year-old niece! Our jaws dropped along with our spoons and before we could congratulate her, she proudly added, “This is nothing!

kids channel, kids channel in india, new age kids channel, new age kids channel in india, changes in kids channel, challenges in kids channel, drawback of kids channel, kids channel in digital era, entertainment channels, programmes for kids, kids programmesKids today are very smart, and thus, marketers have to be smarter and
aim for innovative ways to secure their attention.

Leena Lele Dutta

A family celebration which I attended recently, ended on a very sweet note — a decadent three-layered dessert. Its creator was my nine year-old niece! Our jaws dropped along with our spoons and before we could congratulate her, she proudly added, “This is nothing! Have you seen me dance?” She then switched on her favourite song and promptly traded her master chef avatar for Michael Jackson.

Our kids are super-kids
As the business head of a kids’ channel and a mother of five year-old twin boys, I am surprised at how my audience is developing today. In today’s highly pressurised world, kids are expected to be adept and outshine — not just at school but in everything they participate in — studies, sports, music and everything else that will help build a robust resume. In this highly competitive world, fast tracking kids into adulthood is a trap most of us fall into.

In such an environment, what children really crave for, is to be children where they are not under any pressure to perform, and entertainment is not linked to learning; where extracurricular activities are fun and not about competition; where they can wholeheartedly indulge in their inner child spirit. Marketing has an important role to play in this.

Give kids what they want
To market to kids, we must first understand kids from their point of view. This obviously, is no easy task. Kids today, are much like mini adults. They are strong-willed and have a mind of their own. Thanks to the satellite and digital age, they are more exposed to and aware of brands. They are spoilt for choice and have easy access to brands, services and entertainment. This is why they form an integral part of the decision-making process even when it comes to adult choices such as vacations, electronics and automobiles. They are also smart, so marketers should be smarter and target innovative ways to secure their attention.

To understand our audience better, we met children across urban India to understand what it is like to be a kid. While all of us had some experience with children, understanding their lives through an adult lens would have been a great disservice to them. We wanted to understand in detail what they expected from the brands they associate with and why do some brands resonate better than others. These are some of the learnings:

i. Kids just want to have fun: And why not? It’s their birthright! Kids love simple things like comedy, masti, fun and adventure. It relaxes and rejuvenates them. As marketers, we must understand that when a child is in a relaxed state of mind, she is more open to messages.

ii. Speak to them in a language they speak: English is a minority in this country and still considered a foreign language in most parts. Speaking to children in a language they understand, typically their mother tongue, makes them feel at home.

iii. They relate to Indian content: International programmes may be technologically advanced, but we found kids gravitating to situations and social values they are familiar with. They were drawn to storylines, characters and even character names that came close to real life.

iv. Characters must be role models: Not teachers or preachers. They have school for that. Kids love warm, loving characters whom they would love to have as friends in real life. Characters who spoke their language and behaved like them, were the ones winning their heart. It was also refreshing for them to see characters other than religious or mythological ones — who are
anything but aspirational.

v. TV is the nanny: Mothers, especially in smaller towns, regard television as an opportunity to indulge in their own me-time — all the more reason to make characters inspiring and engaging.

Bring characters to life
With increasing exposure in today’s world, kids are spoilt for choices. For kids to stay loyal to characters and programmes, they must be engaged in a meaningful way, constantly and consistently. Both on air and on ground. To create deep relationships between kids and characters, it is important to introduce these characters in the real world in more innovative ways. One way to do this is through activations where children can interact with their favourite characters so that both kids and their parents know what they stand for.

The characters can also be used to transmit important messages in a fun, non-preachy way. We can achieve this by building strong, fictional characters that resonate with audiences.

Like the rest of the world does, we must also strengthen our efforts in monetising characters and IPs. I am waiting for the day when along with launching a show, we can package merchandising and activation as well — a concentrated effort like this can instantly forge a bond with children. Given that marketers are always seeking innovative new strategies, I am sure that day is not far.

The author is business head, Sony YAY!

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