Nearly two years ago, my husband and I adopted a little boy from Ethiopia. He was 11 months old when he came to the US. He didn’t yet speak, and he had never heard a word of English. Within a few months, he woke up every morning saying, “Hi-pa. Hi-pa.” We assumed it was an Amharic word for bottle or “Get me out of this crib.” Much to our surprise, we soon figured out that he was asking for the iPad! We couldn’t decide whether to laugh at the fact that his first word was “iPad” or cry because it wasn’t “Mommy” or “Daddy.” Regardless, one thing was clear—our son was completely fascinated with the device.
Looking at the results of Smarty Pants’ annual 2011 Young Love survey—a study that measures US kids’ and parents’ awareness, usage and perceptions of more than 250 brands—my son isn’t alone. Kids’ love affair with the iPad is one I witness every day in my personal and professional roles. It extends beyond fascination and puppy love to a full-blown addiction for many. So it may not be totally surprising that in 2011, kids’ affection for the iPad grew more than any other brand tracked by Young Love.
According to our nationally representative study of six- to 12-year-olds and their parents, 35% of kids ages six to eight and 52% of tweens ages nine to 12 say they love the brand. This is a marked increase from 19% and 30%, respectively, in 2010. In fact, the high awareness, love and popularity for the iPad catapulted it to the 25th spot in 2011—it sat at 109 in 2010. Among tweens, the brand leapt from 74 in 2010 to 11 in 2011, making iPad a stronger brand than the likes of YouTube, PlayStation and Cartoon Network, according to our top-100 list.
The growth of iPad is only part of the Apple fairytale. iPod Touch became a top-10 brand among kids and tweens in 2011, rising from the 35th to the 7th most-loved brand. It effectively pushed down entertainment brands like Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and snack-time classics like Goldfish and Capri Sun. And among tweens it now ranks second only to Nintendo’s Wii!
We can’t forget about iPhone, either. While only 23% of kids use an iPhone, the brand jumped from 96 to 29 in 2011, when compared to all brands among the six- to 12-year-old set. For tweens, it rose from the 44th to 13th.
Young Love rankings are based on brands’ Kidfinity scores—a measurement of awareness, love and popularity. Kidfinity scores range from zero to 1,000 and have a near-perfect correlation with brand usage. Let’s look at how Apple brands’ Kidfinity scores rose in 2011.
There is no doubt that these personal entertainment platforms are having an impact on the way kids consume media, discover content and spend their leisure time. For every minute a child plays Angry Birds on her mom’s iPhone, for example, it’s a minute she isn’t logging on to Club Penguin or Nick.com. Likewise, every $0.99 spent on an app is a dollar that makes traditional video game purchases at Walmart more unnecessary.
The rise of these platforms is also starting to affect traditional children’s broadcasters, whose Kidfinity scores dropped in 2011. Across the board, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network experienced declines in kid affinity. The data suggests that mobile devices are becoming the go-to entertainment and content portals for young people. With videos, TV shows, communications, websites and gaming apps within a tap of a finger, why rely on a TV remote to satisfy only some of those desires? It’s no coincidence that Droid’s Kidfinity score rose by 67 points in 2011, while ABC Family’s dropped by 53, Fox’s decreased by 39 and Discovery Channel’s fell by 22 points.
Looking into 2012, it will be critical for content and entertainment providers—both big and small—to harness the power of these devices. Developing for mobile technology, touchscreens and “the cloud” is only part of the equation. Success will also require development based on an understanding that kids and parents share their devices and want to spend quality time together—be it via Facetime, Facebook or family game night.
Wynne Tyree is founder and president of Smarty Pants, LLC, a youth and family market research and consulting firm with offices in New York, L.A., Chicago and Johnson City, Tennessee. Young Love is a syndicated study of more than 250 brands in 20+ categories fielded among nearly 7,000 kids and families each year. For more information, visit www.asksmartypants.com.