Marketers have long been aware of the importance of promotions to reach kids and teens. And according to advertising and promotion agencies, recent trends reinforce that promotions are a key component in the kids marketing mix.
Promotions are ‘critical’ to attract kids and teens, says Colleen Fahey, executive vice president/executive creative director of Chicago, Illinois-based Frankel & Co., a marketing services agency. They are also ‘a particularly successful marketing tool for children’ because kids respond so well to them.
Young or old, anyone appreciates something free. Young children enjoy the immediate gratification of an in-pack gadget or an on-pack joke or maze, says Bruce Riccio, management supervisor with promotion agency Davidson Marketing, also headquartered in Chicago. Teens are more willing to participate in mail-in offers if the incentive has ‘a high enough value and meets the ‘cool’ factor.’ Kids and teens are less excited than adults by cost-saving efforts like coupons.
Getting a free gift, entering a contest or providing their opinion in ways such as voting are ‘empowering’ for kids, says Heidi Schwartz, vice president, strategic planning with New York-based Saatchi & Saatchi Kid Connection, the children’s marketing division of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. ‘Kids just like to be recognized as a force.’ A recent promotion for General Mills’ Trix cereal proved this. Although kids received no prize in return, the packaged-goods company received more than 200,000 votes from kids on the subject of whether the Trix Rabbit should eat the cereal. (Outcome: He d’esn’t.)
Alongside such tactics, kids marketers are starting to introduce loyalty and frequent-purchase programs, typically aimed at adults, says Mark Shevitz, president of promotion marketing agency SJI and marketing fulfillment company SJI Fulfillment of Saint Louis, Missouri. The Burger King Kids Club is just one example. As well, companies like Hallmark that have geared their products to adults are looking to kid-targeted promotions as a way to capture brand loyalty at an early age.
Marketers are also using new technologies, says Julie Colbrese, vice president/creative director with Davidson Marketing. For example, Campbell’s Spaghettios printed holograms, scratch-and-reveal games and tattoos under the product label.
On-line media are being explored in terms of their promotional possibilities. ‘The Internet hasn’t even seen the tip of its potential for what we can do with kids,’ says Shevitz. ‘We’re going to continue to watch the Internet and on-line services and the computer become the central focal point for media, entertainment [and] information for these age groups.’
The Internet, as well as vehicles like direct mail, special events and kids television networks and cable channels, are attractive venues for promotions because they can reach kids directly, says Shevitz. And that is more important today than ever because kids have more influence on their parents’ buying decisions, as well as more freedom and more discretionary income to make their own purchases.
Since licensed properties have always been a hit with kids, promotions tying with properties continue to be a ‘huge’ phenomenon, says Saatchi’s Schwartz. Over the last five to 10 years, she adds, ‘licensing in general has just skyrocketed.’ And this trend in promotions appears to have no end in sight.
But Shevitz cautions that hanging a promotion on a licensed property is ‘still a gamble,’ whereas long-term partnerships between companies can be a safer bet. ‘One of the big trends that we’re seeing is strategic alliances. As marketing becomes more and more fragmented and budgets remain fixed or only increase slightly, these major marketers must get more creative in reaching people. So they want to trade strengths and fill in weaknesses by partnering with related companies.’
These partnerships can be a win-win situation for both members, says Frank Langworth, president of the Langworth Pantel Group of White Plains, New York. Drawing on each other’s brand awareness among teens, Pepsi and Reebok joined forces to boost sales of their products by offering a free basketball when participants bought Pepsi and Reebok sneakers. Langworth says more of his marketing consultancy and promotion agency’s time is now devoted to developing these relationships among clients.
With the continued growth of the Internet, licensed properties and strategic alliances in promotions, combined with the increasing buying power of kids and teens, promotions aimed at younger markets appear to have a solid future.