Brands from children’s perspective
12.07.2005

There is no doubt about it: children want brands.

But while manufacturers try to attract even small children to brands and engage market researchers for this purpose, parents and the media bemoan children’s growing desire for brands.

Children aged 6 to 11 do not have differentiated longings for brands, but want

1) Sensory experiences.
Children can only grasp the world in an immediate fashion. The more striking and multifaceted the sensory qualities of a brand are, the more interesting they are for children.
But that also means: the pettier the sensory experiences are in a life determined by TV and PCs, the more fascination sensory aspects of products and brands have. Instead of experimenting with sand or dough, children eat lavish desserts in front of the tube.

2) Brands should document their level of development.
Children want to be “grown-up.” To this end they seek clear symbols that show the level of development they have reached. But that also means: if there is no significant standard for children’s abilities (“censorships have no meaning anymore”), children look to brands to find their own standards. Through their brand of kick roller children can demonstrate their abilities and their age. Younger children can only master the three-wheel City Roller, while older children can ride the two-wheel K2 Roller.

3) Brands should provide ordering frameworks
Children want to know where they belong and the what the consequences are. Brands are of interest to children if the latter mark a social group. But that also means: the less binding orders are in society, the more brands take over substitute functions. The “Scout” school satchel distinguishes a school-aged child from a child in kindergarten more than learning requirements in the first year of school.

4) Brands should get children involved in processes. Children only learn complex connections when they are concretely involved in something. Brands are of interest as soon as such processes are initiated. But that also means: the less one deals with children, the more they seek interaction via brands.

An example: Pokémon grips children more than school classes. Pre-school children voluntarily learn the names, characters, and numbers in order to enter into “barter transactions” with other children.

rheingold research shows that brands are only important to children when they help them cope with the requirements of growing up and help to fill gaps in children’s education that exist in our culture.

As a result, anyone doing marketing revolving around “children and brand care” should not simply try to “bring everything to the child.” Rather, brands and communication themselves should enable sensual experiences, demonstrate levels of development, offer regulatory frameworks and processes of action, but on the other hand point beyond the brand and offer impetus for real development.

© 2015 rheingold