For kids struggling to define themselves in the real world, the Internet is a compassionate, fun and information-rich community. With it comes the advent of more informed and media-savvy consumers. Kids can avoid brands with a mouse click, and they expect personalized messages, empowerment and respect. The implications for on-line marketers
An extensive national survey
KidLeo, Leo Burnett USA’s kid consultancy, surveyed more than 2,000 kids ages 10 to 17. A national on-line survey, in-home interviews conducted in Chicago, Boston and Seattle, as well as insight from popular kid chatrooms unearthed four distinct on-line kid populations.
Consistently voted most popular, Jade
remains a crucial step ahead of her peers,
having recently purchased a HitClip and an Eminem CD on-line. Leaders in real life, Cool Seekers comprise 18% of the kid population and seek brands with:
* a sense of discovery, a feeling they found the brand,
* exclusivity, joining a privileged group,
* innovativeness, anticipating hot products.
Cool Seekers spend the most time and purchase more on-line than any other kid group. To successfully reach them, brands should project an ‘only for the coolest kids’ attitude. Seekers would be motivated to reserve an advanced copy of the newest Nintendo game or be the first sporting a Kate Spade bag. They congregate at sites like Alloy.com, which
maintains a grown-up, one-step-ahead feel.
From the minute he leaves school until Mom calls him for dinner, Paul practices basketball in hopes of making the team. Strivers, 36% of those surveyed, yearn for greater social
status. On the web for approximately two hours at a time, Strivers prefer brands that are:
* inviting, reinforcing confidence,
* supportive, offering tips and advice,
* experimental, allowing kids to escape reality and take risks.
Successful marketers realize Strivers are in information search mode on-line, but not as willing to purchase as Cool Seekers. They twig to resources that can help them fit in. Information-rich, star-heavy (how is Britney Spears wearing her hair, and how can they emulate it?) and promotion-related content in a safe, welcoming environment is key. Striver girls are especially attuned to retail brands (makeup, accessories and apparel), while boys seek sports and electronic/gaming knowledge. Freezone, with its clothing tips, daily surveys and a ‘slang translator,’ encapsulates the ultimate Striver brand, offering an on-line escape and window into the lives of teen stars.
Bailey’s a varsity soccer player, designated
social planner among his friends and a cell phone addict. On-line, he’s a Visible (36% of kids surveyed). Well-liked, thanks to
athletic prowess or good looks, and highly
social although not among the most popular, on-line Visibles chat and play games,
connecting to brands that are:
* sociable, realizing the importance of friend interaction,
* ubiquitous, having a major presence in youth culture,
* safe, accepted by the mainstream, not too trendy or risky.
Visibles enjoy the Internet, but a big challenge for on-line brands is this group’s preference for live interaction. Chatting and gaming vehicles bring the ‘Hey, you and your friends gather at my site like all the other kids’ atmosphere. The MTV Total Request Live site, which calls teens to vote for favorite videos via e-mail, fax and phone, provides an interactive forum for Visibles and their friends.
When it comes to brand personality matches, Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing line born in the bricks-and-mortar world but succeeding on-line, attracts Visibles. Emblazoned with the A&F logo, the clothes have mass appeal, and the brand connotes a social quality with ads and catalogs showing groups of A&F-clad kids having fun.
Justin spends every Tuesday and Thursday evenings at art class. Every other night, he debates impressionist work on-line. Making up 10% of the population, Solitaires ‘do their own thing,’ think about the future, and express themselves. They like brands that are:
* empowering, encouraging opinions,
* open-minded, offering perspectives,
* aspirational, thinking about the future.
On par with Cool Seekers regarding the high level of daily-life importance placed on the Internet, Solitaires express grown-up opinions through message boards and chatting. Bolt.com, a popular forum for high school and college students, allows them to discuss current issues.
Tina Imig is co-founder of KidLeo, a cross-functional kid consultancy team at advertising agency Leo Burnett USA. Dedicated to understanding the world from a kid’s perspective, the group consolidates Burnett’s ‘cradle to college’ marketing, which has built kid brands for McDonald’s, Nintendo, Walt Disney, Heinz and Kellogg.