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In 2004 U.S advertisers spent over $15 billion in traditional marketing aimed at children, a mass market for toy advertisers. However, the days of Saturday morning cartoons may be coming to end as how and when kids consume media continues to change.

Author Chau Tu in an article on Slate examines the new challenges that toy companies face following the rise of Netflix and entertainment on demand devices.

Some key takeaways are:

  • A study by Nielson showed almost half of all US households with children have at least one internet enabled device connected to their TV’s.
  • Advertisers have turned to alternative angles to generate interest in products, primarily through leveraging storytelling opportunities, collaborating with entertainment franchises such as Disney’s Star Wars.
  • While experiencing some growth in 2017, predicted 4.5%, the toy industry would be struggling without collaboration with Hollywood entertainment heavyweights and exclusive opportunities, with many retail outlets profit hurt by online retailers such as Amazon.
  • Brands like Lego and Shopkins have created their own storytelling opportunities with product lines like Ninjago, original content and characters that utilities multimedia such as television and film to increase their connection and relevance to the youth market.
  • Influencer advertising has become increasingly popular in online forums like YouTube aimed at children, with toy review and unboxing videos popular with young audiences. Unboxing, a video simply involving unwrapping a toy, is a category that has grown 871% since 2010.

What this means to brands who market to kids?

“It’s not longer straightforward or effective to advertise to kids via TV advertising, which traditionally, has always been the most reliable and far reaching platform,” explains Christie Nicholas, Kids Business Communications Managing Director.

“Kids are spending less time watching TV and more time online.  If brands want to start forming a relevant relationship with this audience, then they need to evolve too and market in different avenues, in a voice that is relateable and relevant to them.”

“Then, if you observe what the successful youth brands are doing, they are capitalising on multiple touch points that merge both kids online and offline worlds.  So this includes: gamification, sampling, unboxing, influencers and youth ambassadors as well as multi-level brand extensions.  Toy brands in particular also need to look at two markets to educate and appeal to with their marketing efforts; the children (users of the product) and the mums (purchases of the product) and find a way to create demand from the children and acceptance from the parents.  If brands need acceptance from both markets to be successful than 2 separate strategies need to be actioned as both markets will engage with the brand differently.”

Key action points for brands marketing to children:

  • Look beyond mass advertising through to multiple grassroot avenues
  • Merge online opportunities with offline platforms
  • Create brand extensions that increase brand profile and visibility
  • Establish brand personality that is relatable to the audience
  • Decide on your target market – are you marketing to the children, or to the parents, or both. This matters.



Source: Slate, ‘How Do Toy Companies Appeal to Kids in the Post Saturday Morning Cartoon Era?’ Chau Tu  

“Kids Business Communications delivers custom and full service Quantitative and Qualitative Market Research for your brand. Measure market awareness, competitor analysis, brand perception and why mums are – or aren’t buying your product. Learn more here.”

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