One of Chicago’s oldest market research firms, C&R, is putting some spring in its step this month with the launch of a new biannual syndicated report called YouthBeat that’s already debunking some commonly held beliefs about US kid and teen behavior.
YouthBeat data is culled from a monthly online panel that polls 10,000 kids ages six to 18 on a diverse range of subjects – including media consumption, advertising, consumer spending and hobbies & activities. Interestingly, the report divides its results according to grade level, not chronological age, and attempts to show how kids (from kindergarten to grade three) are influenced by tweens (grades four to eight) and teens (grades nine to 12) by juxtaposing the results for each demo.
So far, C&R VP Jacquie Lane, who’s heading up the initiative, has found a few discrepancies between what kids are really doing and what many grown-up marketers believe they’re doing, particularly when it comes to new media consumption and advertising.
Cell phones, for example, are still primarily treated as communication devices by tweens and teens. Both groups are far more likely to be using the multi-purpose gadgets solely for their original raison d’être, chatting and texting, than accessing their media-playing functions. Only 6% of each demo in the survey use their phones for watching video, for example, while 71% of tweens, and 84% of teens polled use them to text.
On the media front, rumors of the death of TV as the top screen have been greatly exaggerated, says Lane. TV viewership among the kindergarten to grade three segment hasn’t changed in the last four years. And when kids do go online, it’s often to spend time on network-driven sites. The first round of YouthBeat reveals that 71% of kids visit entertainment/media sites and 57% frequent TV channel sites, with music (14%) and video sharing (12%) sites lagging behind. Similarly, 82% of tweens visit entertainment/media sites, but this demo’s budding interest in music becomes more apparent with TV sites (53%) and music URLs (46%) running neck and neck.
As for what they’re doing online, gaming is naturally a staple activity, but it’s interesting to note that the social networking craze hasn’t really affected children under the age of 13. ‘It has to do with linguistic skills and keyboard dexterity,’ says Lane. ‘Online instant messaging starts with older tweens, primarily girls, but customizing [MySpace/Facebook] pages and blogging starts with teens.’ She explains kids really don’t have a fully defined sense of self so it’s difficult to fill profile pages dedicated to exploring the minutae of who they are.
In advertising, YouthBeat has determined that TV is still the key influencer for kids and tweens, says Lane, adding that in-store marketing is having a larger impact with both groups right now. However, the numbers reveal TV’s dominance, if not ubiquity, when it comes to effective messaging. A full 95% of kids (kindergarten to grade three) polled said they had seen TV ads in the past week, with radio (44%), internet (31%) and magazines (30%) rounding out the list.
More interesting, perhaps, is that 86% said they paid the most attention to TV ads, while movies (6%), print (3%), radio (2%) and billboards (1%) trailed far behind, and the internet didn’t even rank. As for the categories with the highest recall, food/beverage (73%) was tops with kids, followed by toys (62%) and entertainment (42%). It’s also worth noting that non-endemic categories such as hair/skin care (24%) and pet food (23%) also made a lasting impression.
For tweens, the numbers are quite similar. A full 96% said they’d seen TV ads in the past week, with 73% reporting they paid the most attention to ads they saw on TV. When it comes to category recall, food/beverage is number one with 74%, but the second spot is something of a surprise. Car manufacturers should note that automotive ads stuck with 56% of the sample group, with entertainment (50%), toys (47%) and electronics (45%) coming in behind.
YouthBeat will be released in two waves, every fall and spring. Lane says C&R is selling the complete reports (US$25,000 for two waves, US$14,500 for one) and not by category at this point. In certain categories, her team will include corresponding data from parents. Ancillary research, such as an upcoming study on shopping, will also be added intermittently.