Three Ways to Market to Children and Families
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Three Ways to Market to Children and Families

Movement Strategy

Aug 19, 2021

Brands have long understood that children can have a transformative impact on their businesses. With the toy market exceeding $32 billion in sales in 2020 and companies such as Roblox worth tens of billions more in market value, kids’ purchasing power (read: spending by their eager-to-please parents) offers immense opportunities to build loyalty and relationships that can last for years or even decades. Think about how many adults still go to Disneyland all those years later. But how should brands market themselves on social media to an audience that may not use (or not be allowed to use) those platforms? And how can brands act responsibly to address concerns such as privacy?

1. Know Your Audience

According to Movement Strategy’s Associate Account Director Daniel Zamilpa, marketers have to get their message across first by understanding how and why parents and their children are using social media. “There’s always this education versus entertainment mentality, so brands have to understand what they are trying to do and then determine which platform is best for that message,” Daniel says. 

Brands should also calibrate the message, particularly for educational content. “When I think about a project, I frame it along the lines of ‘Are we talking Sesame Street or Pixar?’” Daniel says. “There’s a big difference in the type of kid you’re talking to and how cerebral you can get.”

Movement’s Senior Content Producer Carly Simon has to make these judgment calls every day in her role working with HBO Max Family’s social media, which includes Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. For Carly, a major challenge is ensuring that franchises are presented appropriately to each age group. “Not everything is suitable for really young kids, so you have to highlight different facets of the franchise,” Carly says. In a former role, where she worked on the Jurassic Park franchise, the focus turned to toys and video game content because they were age appropriate. 

Age segmentation is a crucial part of understanding and speaking to the right audience. “Tweens are a great example of a very distinct audience among kids,” Carly says. “They are wanting to be older, but they’re actually not and they haven’t had as many life experiences, so they are looking at people a few years older than them in an almost aspirational kind of way.”

2. Know Your Platform

Kylie Ladd, a Senior Data and Insights Strategist at Movement, has found that usage and engagement among children has risen sharply in recent years across all platforms.

“For the youngest generation, they don’t really know an internet without social media. Everyone is focused on millennials and Gen Z for the coolness factor, but kids are using social media more and more.”

“For the youngest generation, they don’t really know an internet without social media. Everyone is focused on millennials and Gen Z for the coolness factor, but kids are using social media more and more.”

Nearly all social sites have age limits, typically keeping anyone under the age of 13 off the site without parental consent—if they can. This is enacted and overseen by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or COPPA), to which Mark Zuckerberg voiced interest in fighting in 2011. 

“My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age,” Zuckerberg once told Fortune.

As Daniel says, each platform plays a different role. “I always consider whether kids are allowed on this platform and if there are restrictions. What do they have access to? I usually see YouTube as the best opportunity to speak to kids directly — particularly younger kids aged 2-8 — because it’s gated and all the content has to be approved by the platform for it to live within there.”

Carly notes that Facebook and Instagram serve different audiences than YouTube. “When I think about the different platforms, I frame it in terms of the programming,” Carly says. “On YouTube, the content can be more educational if you’re focusing on a younger audience and on Facebook and Instagram, we can focus on content that has more of a storyline that older audiences can follow.”

3. Know Your Content

Above all else, brands must prioritize privacy and security considerations and deliver content that is appropriate to young people. “For most brands, marketing should be more about speaking to parents with the understanding that you will somehow be connecting to kids,” Kylie says. “YouTube Kids is so successful because they place such stringent rules on what does get seen. Privacy concerns are such a huge issue.”

Brands also have to ensure that their content is not co-opted. “Community management and filtering is key to preserving safe spaces,” Daniel says, citing shows made for children that also attract adult audiences and trolls. 

“Community management and filtering is key to preserving safe spaces”

Although brands have to understand what content they can produce for children, they still have an important role to play in facilitating conversations between kids and their parents about difficult topics. “When I came out as queer to my family, my aunt asked me how she should speak to her kids about gender and sexuality that is appropriate,” Daniel says. “Brands like Sesame Street do a great job at providing a framework for those conversations.”

Daniel sees Barbie’s series on YouTube as another example of how brands can effectively start important discussions. “Brands have to strike an interesting balance between entertainment, education and responsibility. Barbie’s education series is done incredibly well as a very modern way of communicating to kids and young people, especially young girls, to talk about issues head-on.” 



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