Conference Preview: A Parent-and-Child Balancing Act
It may not be straightforward, but marketing to the whole family with care will pay dividends, writes Joe Thomas.
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Whether it was the latest craze or must-have toy, every parent will at some point have had to deal with a clothes-tugging child pleading for some item or another. Parents are often reluctant to give in without prior knowledge of what they are being asked to buy; others feel guilty for saying no and head straight to the shops.
With more than 400 brands recognised by the average 10-year-old, the challenge for marketers is to ensure their brand's product is attractive to both children and parents.
Getting the balance right between the two groups is not only complicated, but also carries with it the risks of litigation, controversy and negative associations, should a particular campaign backfire.
One brand that manages to target children pertinently is the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Its 'Food4Thought' and 'Junkmonkeys' campaigns encourage the young to think about the food they eat.
'Heart disease is not something that magically hits a 50-year-old man out of the blue - lifestyle plays a key role and looking after your heart from an early age has a very important part to play,' explains David Barker, head of communications at the BHF and a speaker at the upcoming Marketing to Children & Parents Conference.
Choosing the right channel through which to target a young audience is vital. With food brands battling against the restrictions on advertising to children, and the fears associated with young people and the internet, companies need to approach campaigns with caution.
Including the targeting of parents and guardians can also be essential 'The younger children are, the more important it is to target peer groups, parents and people who have the greatest influence on lives,' says Barker.
Jennifer Howze, lifestyle editor at Times Online, agrees that aiming campaigns at parents is important because, ultimately, they wield the power over family spend, though control over the finances within the family unit is beginning to shift. 'Overwhelmingly, women still make the big decisions regarding what to buy,' she says. However, she adds that spending power is shifting away from the mother holding the purse strings for child-centric purchases towards fathers.
The advent of web 2.0 has also brought an influential medium with which to reach young people. 'Increasingly the first thing tweens do when they get home is switch on their computer,' says Barker.
However, a tricky challenge when approaching children is to avoid putting off their parents. …