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Kideation: starting with kids

Doyle Research Associates, an independent marketing research company, has designed a means of extracting creative ideas from a child's mind and converting them into a working tool for clients. The process, called Kideaton, (an amalgamation of the words 'kid' and 'ideation'),...
June 1, 1996

Doyle Research Associates, an independent marketing research company, has designed a means of extracting creative ideas from a child’s mind and converting them into a working tool for clients. The process, called Kideaton, (an amalgamation of the words ‘kid’ and ‘ideation’), is a two-day session designed by the Chicago-based firm.

Lynn Kaladjian, the company’s sales and marketing director, says the process developed as a knee-jerk reaction to clients’ needs. ‘It seemed like a lot of our projects would end up with the clients saying, ‘I wonder what we would have gotten if we had started with kids first.” And so Doyle considered that maybe there was something in having kids involved in product development early on, before work was started on the projects.

Plans for the program began a little over three years ago, and Doyle first incorporated it into its list of services last year. Though the sessions are two days in length, the process starts long before the official session. Doyle begins by screening to find the right kids. Subjects are given a series of open-ended questions. The researchers want children who are articulate and willing to share ideas.

‘They may not necessarily be the geniuses in their classes. . . . They’re kids who have an innate curiosity about how things work,’ says Kaladjian.

Researchers also talk to the parents to find out about the family and the children’s behavior. The kids who are selected are then given a homework assignment pertaining to the client’s objective.

‘What that d’es is sensitize the kids to the topic before coming in the door, commits them to the project and gets their creative juices flowing,’ says Kaladjian.

The two-day session with two hours each day consists of seven or eight kids of the same gender girls one day, boys the next. Doyle’s moderator leads them through a series of creative exercises, and while the kids are tossing out ideas, an artist is on hand sketching the images.

To minimize nervousness and situations where kids with stronger personalities dominate, Kideaton facilitators work to create an environment where kids feel free to say anything. According to Kaladjian, that responsibility is best left in the hands of professional facilitators trained to work with kids. It’s necessary, she says, ‘to be adept on your feet when you need to switch directions quickly, to know when to push harder or maybe ask another question. It seems like a simple thing, but there’s an approach to get great output from children.’

While kids are the focus of the Kideation process, the client is also expected to take an active role in the brainstorming. Prior to the kids session, the client is asked to select a team made up of people from a variety of departments everyone from marketing to product development to observe the kids and then participate in a one-hour team session that begins when the kids finish.

‘We expect the client,’ says Kaladjian, ‘to have a different role in this particular ideation session than with a traditional qualitative focus group. It’s a little bit different and I think that’s something that clients have to be aware of.’

The difference is that the client team’s role is not a passive one. They are expected to be as creative as the kids, but now they have the children’s ideas to work with. Kaladjian stresses the importance of having a cohesive internal team for this stage, otherwise ‘it’s like being on a football team and not everyone knows the play. You’re never going to be successful.’

After the two days, Doyle begins what it calls the ‘afterwork,’ where it takes the data from the kid and client sessions to define, combine, expand, reconfigure and analyze to come up with something that the client can use as a working tool.

Kaladjian sees Kideation as a tool that ‘squeezes out as much juice as we possibly can and then takes the juice and, knowing what to do with it, can make it taste good.’ Kaladjian cautions that the process d’es not suit every need. ‘We might suggest,’ she says, ‘that if you already have something further along, maybe this is not the process that you want to use.’

Clients who have used the Kideation process so far include: General Mills, Quaker, Nestlé Beverage Company, the candy company Sunmark, and Young & Rubicam’s Small Talk division.

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