Commentary

Thanks A Lot, Apple

Many parents might be sarcastically thanking Apple this Thanksgiving, as according to recent research from Nielsen, the iPad (starting at $499) is the most desired item by kids 6-12 going into this holiday season.

This isn't really a surprise. The iPad is an extremely kid-friendly device, with an intuitive and simple interface, tons of games, and several entertainment options. What I am wondering, though, is this: How did the 6- to 12-year-old market figure out that it was such a kid-friendly device?

Pretty much all of Apple's marketing for the iPad seemed to be targeting adults 28-55. The out-of home posters or billboards showed laps wearing khakis, along with dress shoes. These were not colorful tie-died posters with white silhouettes dancing. The iPad marketing exuded an air of maturity and professionalism. This was a device for the sophisticated -- for the New York Times-reading mom and dad. Which made sense, given the price point.

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So what's been influencing the kids? Are kids in iPad households pining for their own, and talking about how neat the device is at school? Do 6- to 12-year-olds beg their parents to make pit stops in Apple stores at the mall instead of at GameStops or toy stores? Everything about the Apple brand seems to run counter to the way we traditionally think about branding for this market - it's colorless, lacking any mascots or cartoonish styling. It's as if kids are abandoning Bugs Bunny for Frank Lloyd Wright.

This trend warrants close examination. In terms of the gaming industry as a whole, this is a pretty clear indication that Apple is dominating among kids. The cool thing these days isn't a Nintendo DS, but an iPod Touch. Not a game console, but an iPad. There are also significant implications for the various online games targeting the 6-12 population. Being part of Apple's ecosystem and getting a front end for your game in the App Store should be a priority.

For marketers at large, the question of why kids are resonating with the Apple brand is worth investigating further. Historically, it was pretty easy to see from a marketing perspective why past toys like Tickle-Me Elmo were the holiday's desired item. Nielsen's research has me questioning if the current best practices in marketing to kids 6-12 aren't outdated and less relevant to the current generation.

(Note: It should also be understood that much of the sample the research represents may already own Nintendo portables or game consoles. Also, the research was conducted prior to Microsoft's marketing push for Kinect. Nevertheless, the iPad's showing is a strong enough lead that these factors don't really affect the points above.)

1 comment about "Thanks A Lot, Apple".
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  1. David Wilson from AMN Healthcare, November 24, 2010 at 2:45 p.m.

    While I don't have any yet, based on my observations of my niece and nephew, kids want whatever device their parents are holding, whether that is a cellphone, videogame controller or (now) an iPad. How many parents are willing to spend at least $500 to put a delicate tech device into their kids' hands is the billion dollar question. My guess is probably quite a few, based on the ludicrous amounts of money people spend on gifts, but I doubt it will be commonplace across middle america in this economy. And I think it's pretty obvious why the Apple brand, with its simple logo, bright colors, and user-friendly products, appeals to kids (who are especially brand conscious).

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