Marketing to Kids
This pint-sized target group can be the most difficult consumer to reach – and retain
Kids can be fickle consumers with beverage preferences that change on a whim. Shelves and cold cases are filled with bold drink packages designed to woo the kids’ demographic. Are wild colors and graphics a good hook to attract children? Probably. Will it keep them coming back? Probably not.
“Marketers believe that if they market beverages to teens, young adults or even families, that the message will trickle down to kids in an aspirational way,” says Rachel Geller, chief strategic officer at the Geppetto Group, a firm based in New York City that handles marketing geared toward children, teens, young adults and moms. “We’ve done research that shows that theory is absolutely not true. Most of the time, beverage messages are very extrinsic, highly image-oriented, and in the end, too conceptual for kids who are concrete thinkers. All the kids get from it is a superficial message.
“If you’re a larger company that puts a lot of money into your media, kids get that you’re a leader but they don’t get the subtle nuances of your message or your positioning and therefore their connection to those brands is superficial as well.”
Geller suggests beverage companies market directly to kids in order for them to identify and develop a connection with a brand. “It’s similar to marketing to ethnic groups,” she says. “If you are a minority, you feel like companies understand you if you see advertisements featuring people who look like you and talk like you. If you don’t have money like Coke and Pepsi that enables you to register as a leader, you have to be much smarter and more insightful.”
Brand creation from the ground up
The Geppetto Group has developed a proprietary discipline called Echo Branding. It’s a process that begins with the creation of a unique, “meaningful insight” that’s owned by the client’s brand. The insight is then executed in every corner of a kid’s life so that it echoes in every part of a kid’s life. “One of the reasons kids’ marketing is different than marketing to adults is because kids have so many rituals and behaviors that we can latch on to and connect with,” comments Geller.
Geller says her team asks the same double-sided question of every brand it develops: what does it do (in terms of taste, flavor and packaging), and what does it do for me? This question is especially relevant during the development of packaging. “There is so much a marketer can do to say to kids ‘We do something for you that no adult brand can do,’ whether that entails creating a beverage package that easily fits in a kid’s hand or backpack,” she says.
The adult beverage market is heavily influenced by health-consciousness consumers. In the kids’ beverage segment, this is even more true. There are tremendous opportunities for “better-for-you” kids’ beverages — as long as they’re executed with care. “Marketers are wary of marketing drinks to kids because they’re worried about having a sugar or caffeine profile that could set off a negative PR backlash for what is most likely a small entry in their portfolio,” Geller says. “We have talked to kids about beverages and we found that kids really want better-for-you drinks that they can call their own, but there’s a real problem: all of the words marketers use to talk about better-for-you say to kids ‘diet,’ ‘low fat,’ and kids don’t want to ever hear ‘less’ anything. We found that all the words we say to kids usually boil down to ‘less taste’ and ‘less fun.’ We’ve been working to try and figure out how to create better-for-you beverages that are all about ‘more,’ which is what kids want.”
When it comes to the packaging, Gellar says it’s important to give kids and moms clear brand messages. “Marketers often think kids’ packaging needs lots of color and clutter, but kids can’t put it into the shopping cart without first asking mom, which means the packaging has to be that much more memorable so they know what to ask for specifically, as opposed to generic colors and graphics,” she says. “We encourage marketers to look at the tried and true ways that have worked with kids, like character development. We don’t think anyone’s done it in the beverage category, but we see it in other categories. In salty snacks, there’s Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah and the cereal category has traditionally done a great job, too.”
In the end, Geller says it’s fine to look for something new and unusual to use as your brand hook, but it’s best to look at brands that have stood the test of time and look into the brand creation methods of the past if you’re really looking to create a time-tested brand, as opposed to an in-and-out promotion.
Organic kid’s smoothie is fun (and healthy!)
In August, Horizon Organic, Longmont, Colo., launched a line of kid-friendly smoothies made with organic nonfat yogurt and fruit juices. The beverages are available in four flavors — Wild Berry Blast, Strawberry Banana Splash and Tropical Fruit Punch — and deliver calcium and 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C per serving.
“Consumers are taking a closer look at how their food choices impact their overall health and well-being,” says Horizon Organic’s Doug Radi, smoothie brand manager. “If it tastes good, kids will eat it. [But] tasting good and being good for  you are not mutually exclusive. Choosing organic food is a great way to reduce exposure to added chemicals because organic  food is produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth  hormones and dangerous pesticides.”
A key point of difference in the Horizon Organic smoothies is that they are enriched with NutraFlora, a natural fiber that enhances calcium absorption. And as a prebiotic, NutraFlora also helps increase the level of good bacteria in the digestive system and promotes overall digestive health. According to Trina O’Brien, marketing and public relations specialist, GTC Nutrition, Golden, Colo., NutraFlora short-chain fructooligosaccharides (scFOS) are effective and safe for small appetites and digestive systems.