Branding with Kids

by Nancy Zwiers | 31 May 2021

The Bloom Report

Q. We are a small company and we trying to build our brand with kids. What are some things to keep in mind for success?

A. You are right to think about your brand as it has been proven that brand equity correlates with greater pricing power and profitability. With no brand equity, you are, in fact, a commodity--with constant downward pricing pressure. Further, in the world of toys and games, a brand delivers credibility with the Trade and parents, lowering purchase risk. Finally, achieving brand status helps you create visibility and critical mass at retail.

Branding is powerful, but with kids branding has its own set of challenges. 

Consistency vs. Newness

One definition of brand is “a promise made to the consumer and kept consistently over time.” But we know kids crave a constant stream of newness. If you are making and keeping the same promise over time, how do you deliver newness? The key is to understand your brand’s core essence (as a basic promise), keep that essence constant and intact over time, but innovate all other aspects of the marketing mix—product, packaging, merchandising, advertising, content, etc.

For example, when we worked on the amazing Barbie® brand in the 90’s, the brand essence was “embodying little girls’ dreams and aspirations.” Every year we launched hundreds of new products, supported by diverse marketing efforts…but the essence remained at the core of everything.

Balancing familiarity and trust with newness is a key to success in creating a kids’ brand.

Abstract vs. Concrete

A brand is abstract, while a product is concrete. Neuroscience confirms that the prefrontal cortex, which gives us the ability to understand abstractions (as well as plan and exercise impulse control), doesn’t fully develop until age 24. Kids can’t relate to abstractions. Conversely, “concrete” packs a punch. What makes something concrete? If you can recognize or interact with something using one or more of your five senses, it is concrete. Power is abstract; a superhero is concrete. Glamour is abstract; a princess is concrete. Anticipation is abstract; a blind box is concrete.

The way you build a brand with kids is to embody your abstract promises and dimensions in a concrete product. It is no surprise, then, that out of the $50+ million in advertising we spent advertising Barbie to kids in a given year during the 90’s, all of it was on product advertising—none of it was on brand-level advertising. Kids fall in love with a brand through interactions with concrete products and content. 

If your product promises a certain benefit, try to find ways to build concrete cues into your product that convey that promise. An articulated action figure delivers the promise of action in a concrete way. The long luxurious hair of Barbie delivers beauty and glamour in a concrete way. The soft fur of a plush delivers the promise of comfort in a concrete way, and more furry softness delivers more comfort. Silly graphics on a game board delivers the promise of fun in a concrete way.

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