If you really want to know what kids are thinking, have another kid do the asking. This is the premise of Kid2Kid, a one-stop shop for children’s marketing and research. The St. Louis-based company a joint venture between The Zipatoni Co., a St. Louis sales and promotion firm, and Fresh Kids, a Philadelphia research company came into existence when co-founders Eric Lipman and Whiton Paine felt there was a need for something different in kids marketing and research. The result was this all-in-one firm that not only combines market research, promotion, design and developmental psychology, but also gets kids to run the show.
Kid2Kid focus groups are led by trained moderators or ‘peer guides,’ age 11 to 18. The advantage of this method, according to Lipman, is that kids are more open when talking to each other than talking to an adult.
‘When a kid’s got a problem, the first person they speak with is another kid before they go to their parents or a counsellor or a teacher.’
But is it possible for an 11-year-old to effectively moderate a group of energetic children with the skill of a veteran adult researcher? No, says Lipman.
‘It would be an insult to the good adult moderators to say that our kids do the kind of job they do. But, we do a very different kind of research and [these kids] provide a very different kind of function.’ That function is delivering instructions and making the kids feel as comfortable as possible. And while it may appear that the moderators are running the show, each one is linked, via an earphone, to the adult team behind a one-way mirror. This allows the hidden adults to pose questions or redirect the discussion through the child guides.
The different kind of research that Lipman refers to is based on observations that, developmentally, a lot of kids aren’t capable of clearly expressing what they feel. So bombarding them with a lot of questions, according to Lipman, won’t yield accurate results. Kid2Kid sessions are set up to read the emotional connection the kids have with the product rather than a rational one.
Sanrio, a manufacturer and retailer of children’s clothing, gifts and accessories, used Kid2Kid’s emotional angle to develop its first national print ad targeting the teen market. The ad, which ran in Seventeen magazine and featured a 1-800 number, was a phenomenal success. The company fielded 700 phone calls on the first day, says William Hensley, Sanrio’s marketing manager, up from about one or two, with an estimated 25,000 in the first month.
But these successes do not come cheaply. ‘We’re top of the rate card in children’s focus groups,’ Lipman admits, ‘[but] the results are worth it.’