Connecting Brands With Kids And Moms

Kids impact entire product categories -- from beverages to snacks, restaurant menus to at-home meals, hotel accommodations to cruise activities, bikes and scooters to automobile amenities -- in expected and unexpected ways.     

This impact begins with the first anticipatory moments of parents to-be. They are now a family and will be there at every turn, posting pictures as their "firsts" become likes and favorites.

This level of engagement marks a key change in modern families whose parenting approach is generally fully engaged and collaborative. Marketers need to consider new dimensions in engaging this audience, which shifts at every stage of a child’s development.

Sharing some the truths we have learned along the way is instructive.

1. Connecting with kids and moms requires bimodal messaging

How brands communicate with kids and moms is as important as what brands communicate.

First let’s clarify the term “kids,” which we consider as ages 5-7 -- the developmental stage after toddlers but before tweens and teens. Throughout these stages, the balance of appeal to kids and moms evolves. At the earliest ages, communicating to mom is a must. As children grow, however, the communication requires a balanced transition to kid-only to tweens and teens.



We recently helped a leading brand develop and launch a line of kids body washes and shampoos. The brand speaks directly to moms and kids, with a balance of fun and efficacy. The structure of the packaging, the colors and characters tell kids it’s for them, while the style, symbols and language tells moms it’s to clean their kids’ skin and hair.

Every brand identity and package design requires sensitivity to the intended niche, to what we say and how we say it. As a general rule, moms choose the category, while kids choose the brand.

2. Kids are kids, moms are supermoms

Much is said about today’s kids being distracted screen junkies and mothers being multitasking, hard-to-reach, soccer moms. While this is true to an extent, kids are still kids -- but moms are, well, supermoms. Mommy bloggers, play-along and helicoptering are examples of being "all in." 

3.  Instincts, insights = gold

While research teams and creative partners may do great work, research and strategy is often lost in translation. We base insights on initial research to ignite strategic perspectives, then test those insights by listening and talking with kids and moms.

One recent relaunch resuscitated the brand that created the bubble gum category, lost its retail presence and relevance to kids over years of neglect. In collaboration with kids, we recreated a brand that speaks to kids, for kids.

4. Get kids and moms involved

Ask! Listen. Shop with them. Share ideas. Show stuff. Listen more.

Three-quarters of kids ages 6-17 want companies to ask their opinions. More than half feel that food companies don’t understand them. Half of kids ages 12-17 feel that most clothing companies don’t get their style.

5. Show and tell – build consensus

Show and tell can eliminate unwelcome surprises.  Collaboration is key; sharing and showing along the way builds consensus. Everyone loves being heard and being involved in decision-making.

6.  Familiar but different -- leveraging equities and inequities

Category norms should be respected, but the balance between the familiar and the different should be optimized. Equities are invaluable assets. Yet inequities are just as important. The key to relevance is knowing when to leverage equities and when to embrace inequities.

7. Fun is not enough

Clients usually request that kids’ products be “fun” -- but fun represents a wide range of things and emotions. We ask what type of fun is needed and use descriptors to differentiate ideas. But kids have other needs too, including empowerment, security and belonging. An ideal product combines attributes that meet these needs harmoniously.

Smart marketers recognize that kids and families are actually three markets in one: consumers, influencers, and potential lifelong followers and to insure continued success, brands must evolve along with moms, kids and families.

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