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Post-recession trendspotting Technology, DIY and escapism to shape kid culture over next year

Keeping track of 'what the kids are up to these days' is part of the job for anyone in this industry, but it's a bit harder to forecast what kids will want six or 12 months from now - that's what market research experts are for. At KidScreen Summit in February, we were lucky enough to get New York-based Zandl Group senior director of research and trends Anna D'Agrosa to get the audience up to speed on what's currently resonating with kids and teens and what's likely to over the next year. Now it's your chance.
April 1, 2010

Keeping track of ‘what the kids are up to these days’ is part of the job for anyone in this industry, but it’s a bit harder to forecast what kids will want six or 12 months from now – that’s what market research experts are for. At KidScreen Summit in February, we were lucky enough to get New York-based Zandl Group senior director of research and trends Anna D’Agrosa to get the audience up to speed on what’s currently resonating with kids and teens and what’s likely to over the next year. Now it’s your chance.

D’Agrosa’s insights into emerging trends are drawn from custom research projects as well as Zandl’s biannual trend-tracking report, The Hot Sheet, which surveys more than 3,000 US youths between the ages of eight and 24. Clients subscribing to The Hot Sheet include kids biz biggies Cartoon Network, Disney, Fisher-Price, Hasbro, General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, MTV Networks and Mattel.

According to D’Agrosa, technology continues to exert the most influence on young people, and she took a specific look at what digital natives – kids who have never known a world without the internet – expect from their tech. Not surprisingly, their expectations are quite a bit different from their parents’. For example, kids and teens who have TV, instant messaging, internet access, email, video games and social networking sites at their finger tips, perform an average of seven tasks at a time. Older people (a.k.a. digital immigrants), in comparison, can manage to perform a maximum of three tasks at a time.

This generation expects instant responses, which means its members gravitate to sites like Google Wave and they appreciate the real-time interaction of web-based services like movie site Netflix and music-streaming site Pandora. And they approach technology as a facilitator of communication, in which using a cell phone to place a voice call is inconvenient but text messaging is where it’s at. This group also has an open-source mindset; it expects to get entertainment for free, but also understands that somewhere along the line advertising will be part of the free-content equation. Digital natives also leverage technology to curate and handpick their news sources, expect transparency from their brands, and readily express their opinions, both good and bad, about companies and products.

In terms of tech trends over the next year, expect to see the continued proliferation of 3-D movies, Blu-ray technology, internet-enabled devices that turn TV sets into big computer monitors, e-readers and even more iApps. Augmented reality, which is just emerging, will begin to mature and universal wi-fi will become a reality in public spaces. In particular, online viewing of videos and TV series was up this year, and D’Agrosa noted that kids are increasingly watching shows on kidcaster websites, including those belonging to Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney.

Interestingly, D’Agrosa said kids and tweens are just as acutely aware of the effects of the recession as many adults, and in a post-recession economy they are eager to live within their means – this could be a generation of do-it-yourselfers in the making. She found kids and teens were keen on the DIY approach to everything from fashion to making gourmet meals at home, and they’re relying on emerging kid-friendly cooking blogs, YouTube videos and community events to do it. The cooking trend, in fact, is amplified by kids’ obsession with leading an environmentally conscious life – eating organically grown food and learning where meat and produce actually come from is a big part of living green.

In terms of entertainment, the supernatural emerged as a hot trend last year and is continuing to lead the way. ‘We’re still in a vampire moment,’ D’Agrosa said, referring to the continuing popularity of the Twilight Saga and shows like The Vampire Diaries. However, ghost stories are also catching on, and she pointed to those depicted in low-budget, high-profit film Paranormal Activity and TV shows Psychic Kids and Ghost Hunters as good examples. D’Agrosa also emphasized that kids have been in tune with the bleak economy of the last couple of years, which has pushed adults and kids alike to flock to escapist, fantasy and sci-fi- themed feature films and TV series.

Moving beyond the supernatural, D’Agrosa said distopian movies like Avatar and District 9 and video games such as Call of Duty – which followed on the heels of this very fraught and anxious moment in the world’s socio-economic history – have spurred a fascination with the end of the world. And this mindset is also trickling down into fashion and design. She pointed to pop artists and style icons Lady Gaga and Rhianna as good examples. On the flip side, the reality genre is evolving and kids are into the total gamut of reality formats from documentary-style series to trashy, semi-scripted shows where both the viewers and series’ ‘stars’ understand they are depicting characters and not exposing their true personalities.

D’Agrosa concluded the key to staying on top of trends in the next year involves keeping a close eye on what young consumers will be looking for in a post-recession economy, as well as considering how digital natives use technology and how companies can become a meaningful part of that conversation. ‘Think about escapist entertainment and what we can do as property creators to give them this kind of escapist outlet that they’re looking for,’ she said. Keeping track of ‘what the kids are up to these days’ is part of the job for anyone in this industry, but it’s a bit harder to forecast what kids will want six or 12 months from now – that’s what market research experts are for. At KidScreen Summit in February, we were lucky enough to get New York-based Zandl Group senior director of research and trends Anna D’Agrosa to get the audience up to speed on what’s currently resonating with kids and teens and what’s likely to over the next year. Now it’s your chance.

D’Agrosa’s insights into emerging trends are drawn from custom research projects as well as Zandl’s biannual trend-tracking report, The Hot Sheet, which surveys more than 3,000 US youths between the ages of eight and 24. Clients subscribing to The Hot Sheet include kids biz biggies Cartoon Network, Disney, Fisher-Price, Hasbro, General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, MTV Networks and Mattel.

According to D’Agrosa, technology continues to exert the most influence on young people, and she took a specific look at what digital natives – kids who have never known a world without the internet – expect from their tech. Not surprisingly, their expectations are quite a bit different from their parents’. For example, kids and teens who have TV, instant messaging, internet access, email, video games and social networking sites at their finger tips, perform an average of seven tasks at a time. Older people (a.k.a. digital immigrants), in comparison, can manage to perform a maximum of three tasks at a time.

This generation expects instant responses, which means its members gravitate to sites like Google Wave and they appreciate the real-time interaction of web-based services like movie site Netflix and music-streaming site Pandora. And they approach technology as a facilitator of communication, in which using a cell phone to place a voice call is inconvenient but text messaging is where it’s at. This group also has an open-source mindset; it expects to get entertainment for free, but also understands that somewhere along the line advertising will be part of the free-content equation. Digital natives also leverage technology to curate and handpick their news sources, expect transparency from their brands, and readily express their opinions, both good and bad, about companies and products.

In terms of tech trends over the next year, expect to see the continued proliferation of 3-D movies, Blu-ray technology, internet-enabled devices that turn TV sets into big computer monitors, e-readers and even more iApps. Augmented reality, which is just emerging, will begin to mature and universal wi-fi will become a reality in public spaces. In particular, online viewing of videos and TV series was up this year, and D’Agrosa noted that kids are increasingly watching shows on kidcaster websites, including those belonging to Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney.

Interestingly, D’Agrosa said kids and tweens are just as acutely aware of the effects of the recession as many adults, and in a post-recession economy they are eager to live within their means – this could be a generation of do-it-yourselfers in the making. She found kids and teens were keen on the DIY approach to everything from fashion to making gourmet meals at home, and they’re relying on emerging kid-friendly cooking blogs, YouTube videos and community events to do it. The cooking trend, in fact, is amplified by kids’ obsession with leading an environmentally conscious life – eating organically grown food and learning where meat and produce actually come from is a big part of living green.

In terms of entertainment, the supernatural emerged as a hot trend last year and is continuing to lead the way. ‘We’re still in a vampire moment,’ D’Agrosa said, referring to the continuing popularity of the Twilight Saga and shows like The Vampire Diaries. However, ghost stories are also catching on, and she pointed to those depicted in low-budget, high-profit film Paranormal Activity and TV shows Psychic Kids and Ghost Hunters as good examples. D’Agrosa also emphasized that kids have been in tune with the bleak economy of the last couple of years, which has pushed adults and kids alike to flock to escapist, fantasy and sci-fi- themed feature films and TV series.

Moving beyond the supernatural, D’Agrosa said distopian movies like Avatar and District 9 and video games such as Call of Duty – which followed on the heels of this very fraught and anxious moment in the world’s socio-economic history – have spurred a fascination with the end of the world. And this mindset is also trickling down into fashion and design. She pointed to pop artists and style icons Lady Gaga and Rhianna as good examples. On the flip side, the reality genre is evolving and kids are into the total gamut of reality formats from documentary-style series to trashy, semi-scripted shows where both the viewers and series’ ‘stars’ understand they are depicting characters and not exposing their true personalities.

D’Agrosa concluded the key to staying on top of trends in the next year involves keeping a close eye on what young consumers will be looking for in a post-recession economy, as well as considering how digital natives use technology and how companies can become a meaningful part of that conversation. ‘Think about escapist entertainment and what we can do as property creators to give them this kind of escapist outlet that they’re looking for,’ she said.

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