Small Business Marketing

Marketing to Children

Written by Amy Bax for Gaebler Ventures

Marketing to children has become a hot topic. Not that long ago, children were generally not thought of as a demographic to advertise to. But, marketers now recognize that kids have buying influence that needs to be courted.

Years ago, marketing to kids was not a priority.

Marketing to Children

It makes sense that children were long ignored by marketers. It was widely thought that they did not have the spending power and the parents were the ones to target.

This may still be somewhat true in that children do not have all of the spending power, but kids have much more buying influence than they used to.

As such, smart companies are marketing to kids aggressively. In fact, it is estimated that companies are now spending over $15 billion annually on advertising that is directly focused on marketing to children.

It makes sense. Parents listen to what their children want and will many times comply with their wishes. So, not only do parents need to be interested in your advertising/marketing message, but you also need to first grab the child's attention.

Good Ways to Market to Children

Make sure your message is age appropriate.

Trying to market to a teenager and using the same marketing techniques used for eight-year-olds will not attract your target market. Instead, they will become offended because they will feel you are talking down to them. Learn how to communicate on their level of maturity and intelligence.

Include diversity in your advertising and marketing efforts.

Kids want to feel that they will fit in with a group, and seeing a child similar to themselves playing within a group of others will help them appreciate what you are selling more. They will feel that you are sending a message directly to them.

Use eye-catching packaging.

As amazing and exciting as your product may be, it will not be noticed unless the packaging is pleasing to look at, new, or colorful. Same with the advertising message -- children respond best to a tone of excitement and colorful messaging.

Know where to reach them.

Many companies have found ways to incorporate their product or company logo into everyday use in schools or organizations children participate in. Sponsoring events, teams, or donating products/services is a good way to catch their attention. Also, more and more, kids are exposed to online advertising on a regular basis. Kid-friendly websites with games, useful links, and exciting layouts will get their attention. As a smaller company, you may not be able to do quite as much as what larger national brands are capable of online, but perhaps you can still accomplish a scaled-down version of what the big companies are doing.

What To Be Careful Of When Marketing to Children

Do not appeal to them using negative persuasion techniques.

Children can be easily influenced and ethical questions are raised if you put peer pressure on them, convincing them they need to purchase what you are selling because "everyone else is doing it". Remember that parents are usually the final say in what gets purchased, and they will also see the advertising used to attract your market. Issues such as peer pressure are not going to be appreciated and may create backlash.

Do not forget to market to the parents.

As stated above, more often than not, parents are the ones who are making the final purchasing decision. That means you also need to consider creating a message that will appeal to the parents. They, too, need to know and understand what value their child will get out of the purchase of your product or service.

Don't underestimate the audience.

Kids have been exposed to advertising since a very early age, and are more consumer savvy than you would sometimes think. Do not attempt to deceive them, or make exaggerated claims. Trying to claim your product is the "best product ever in the entire world" will end up making you look silly and ridiculous. They will see right through this, and possibly produce negative feelings towards you and your product.

Amy Bax is interested in providing innovative informational resources to entrepreneurs. She is currently an MBA student at the University of Missouri - Columbia.

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