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125 kids speak their minds

Accommodating the interests of the fickle youth market can sometimes be as challenging as launching a product in a foreign country. But a new American publication is hoping to make it easier for marketers by helping them delve deeper into the...
July 1, 1997

Accommodating the interests of the fickle youth market can sometimes be as challenging as launching a product in a foreign country. But a new American publication is hoping to make it easier for marketers by helping them delve deeper into the minds of their target consumers.

Kid Consultants, a new bi-monthly newsletter, focuses on the lifestyles, attitudes and interests of nine- to 14-year-olds across America. But the 12-page publication is unique because it reports on the findings from primary research conducted among a specific pool of kid consultants.

The editorial content comes from a staff of youth experts, as well as directly from the kids themselves. The comments from the youths are reproduced exactly as they were originally written grammatical mistakes and all so as not to tamper with what they are trying to say.

‘There is plenty of qualitative and quantitative research information out there, but what is lacking for most marketers is having deeper, ongoing relationships with their target,’ says Art Klein, co-publisher of Kid Consultants and a vice president at the New York-based Child Research Services, a 23-year-old youth and family marketing research firm, which is a division of McCollum Spielman Worldwide.

The publication currently works with about 125 young people (50 percent male, 50 percent female) from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds across the United States. They are not a randomly selected group, but have gone through a lengthy interview process.

Klein says they began by surveying young people over the phone. After a general screening process, some kids were invited to undergo a taped interview and further testing, which included writing samples. Parents also filled out questionnaires on family background and household information.

‘We were looking for kids who are articulate and who have a good sense of their environments,’ says Klein. ‘We wanted to pick kids who are on the edge and can identify trends.’

By talking directly to these aware adolescents, Kid Consultants is hoping to fill a niche for marketers. The articles are general in nature, but are supported with numerous quotes and comments from the youths.

The premiere issue features items on what kids really think of the Internet and how they earn and spend their money. Regular departments include profiles of individual kid consultants as well as a column called ‘Hot, Not and Why Not,’ where kids talk about what they think is cool. It touches not only on youth-targeted products, but also on anything that affects young people.

A section called ‘unADULTerated’ lets the kid consultants loose to tell adults exactly what is going on in their minds. In the first assignment, the kids were asked to write an imaginary letter to a business leader or company president of their choice. They were free to compliment, complain or offer advice.

For example, Amie T., age 9, from Los Angeles, wrote to Mattel: ‘Do you remember when I told you that I was a diabetic? Well, I wanted to know if you could make a sugar-free Eazy-Bake oven?’

Fourteen-year-old Adam, of Chicago, was interested in talking to the president of Nike about the high price of sneakers: ‘The nike air more uptempo/ or scottie pippens new sh’es cost $150.00 + tax. Also the michael jordans are way [too] expensive.’

In addition to the newsletter, Child Research Services offers companies an opportunity to use the kid consultants for proprietary research on a per-project basis or for on-going consultations.

The company is also in the process of expanding its database of young people across the U.S. The information that is being collected is not only useful for marketers, but for anyone involved with young people, says Klein.

In exchange for the insight they provide into their everyday lives, the kids are given gifts and company freebies.

‘The kids are thrilled to be involved with this,’ says Klein. ‘They love the idea that adults are interested in their opinions and want to listen to what they have to say.’

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