Engaging kids – the newer challenges for brands

Kids have moved on from letting elders do the choosing to being powerful influencers in a family's buying decision. Industry experts share what it is like to engage with today's always-connected kids

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Engaging kids – the newer challenges for brands

Kids have moved on from letting elders do the choosing to being powerful influencers in a family's buying decision. Industry experts share what it is like to engage with today's always-connected kids

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | August 20, 2015


Gone are the days when kids would accept whatever their parents would choose for them. Today's Internet and gadget-savvy and always connected younger generation have graduated to the role of influencer in a family's buying decision. No longer would using cartoon characters or a game pasted on your company's website or app suffice. This generation knows its angel sharks and goblin sharks (Don't know what these are? Time for a self update) and establishing long-term relationships with this generation is a tough proposition for brands.

The key word here is engagement. Children today are at their visual best. Hence, even the learning process has taken steps towards the same by bring in projector style learning in classrooms or the action-learning method. But the question here is how can a brand that once worked through the numerous expectations set by a parent filter be a part of a child's life for years to come? The involvement of a brand, therefore, has grown beyond being a sale to being more of an experience. takes an in-depth look at the kids sector and speaks to a cross-section of industry stalwarts, including digital agencies, brand marketers and planners, to gain further insights.

Sharing his views, Kiran Mandrawadkar, Senior Group Head, Isobar India, said, “For any brand or a kid's brand, the consumer and customer are different entities. Generic platform/ page/ social media property management is either dead, or dying, and pointless. There's so much that brands can do in terms of real-time marketing. A lot has changed since kids wanted must-have collectible toys and parents battled over the last. Today's young consumers are tech-savvy multitaskers; no static toy can keep their attention for long. As the first generation of true digital natives, they naturally take to interactive technologies and rich digital experiences to stay entertained and engaged.”

The parent equation

Monish Ghatalia, Founder,, added here, “When we had initially launched in 2013, while we received an overwhelming response from children in terms of more than 90,000 registered users, we felt that there we needed to evolve to become a brand with an approach that was more inclusive of the parents as well. A child's first step into the world of the Internet needs to be guided by an active involvement by their parents and hence, we launched the feedback campaign, 'Let's Build', inviting parents, children and educators to tell them what they would like to see in a website for kids. This was a means through which both parents and kids were able to get a first hand insight into what the other sought in the world of the Internet and also reached common ground by voting for topics such as learning the value of money, exploring world travel and even the power of giving.”

Adding further, Ghatalia said, “The digital native of today has been given a variety of choices today, from food, to clothing and even the choice of education. As much as parents want to give only their best, their primary concern will always remain the well-being of the child. At, therefore, we did an in-depth research to understand what kids wanted and what the concerns of their parents were. Right from the amount of time a child spends online to the type of content they wish to consume, we also went to the parents on these aspects, discussing their fears and what measures they take to ensure a good online experience. While there is always a sense of 'doing just fine', we realised that communication is extremely critical. So, while we gave the kids their share of content (which we revamp on a monthly basis) to keep them engaged, we also ensure an ad free platform, with security measures and a time lock for the parents. In addition to this, a dedicated app for parents to stay connected to their child's activities on was also introduced. It is, therefore, a facilitator of conversation between the two which is working beautifully.”

Giving his take on how brands are balancing their engagement strategies when it comes to kids, Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive, said, “Young consumers are relating with the brands that are most transparent in social and mobile platforms – young adults, teens, and now even kids under 12 years old are rarely far from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The most effective brand engagement begins with reaching consumers at an early age in order to establish and nurture a relationship. Few of the brands that have worked wonderfully with kids have been those that have been able to sustain as part of a child's daily environment by gaining adequate insights into the changing paradigm of content consumption? by kids.”

Ashish Upadhyaya. Executive Director, Purple Focus, added here, “It is imperative for brands to balance the concerns of parents with the need to engage with the child. After all, it is the parents who control not only the purse strings but also access to devices delivering digital content. Whatever be the category, if a parent feels that the brand is acting responsibly around children and is actually contributing to child's development (mental, physical, emotional, social, etc.), they are more likely to feel safe in letting their children interact with the brand on a digital platform. It is also more likely that they encourage their children to do so.”

“These are confusing times for being a parent. The ultra competitive world they themselves live and operate in makes them want that their child be equipped with every competitive edge/ advantage they can provide. On the other hand, they also want their child to be 'happy', 'free', 'expressive', 'creative', etc., so that the parents are seen as modern, progressive, and aware. This was not the case earlier. As a result, those who are parents today are more involved than their parents when they themselves were children. Children, on the other hand, are children and they are no different from children of yesteryears. They exhibit the same traits, phases, characteristics, and behaviour that children of their age always have down the ages. That children today are more aware is a factor of the times, environment and circumstances they are growing up in. Given these facts, brands which digitally engage with children in a more meaningful manner from both the parents and child's POV will win,” Upadhyaya remarked.

According to Harpreet Singh Tibb, Marketing Director, Kellogg India, “Parenting in today's world is increasingly becoming a difficult task because in the real sense of the term, kids today know a lot more than their parents at a very young age about so many different things. Thus, our new campaign 'Khuljaye Bachpan' is built on the insight that parent-kid relationships have now evolved into a relationship of equals. Parents learn from the kid as much as they teach them. Kellogg's Chocos keeps in mind the preferences of both the child and parent. While kids love its yummy chocolaty taste and have fun with the way Kellogg's Chocos turns milk deliciously chocolaty, moms feel reassured that they've given their child a nourishing breakfast because Chocos is made with whole grain wheat, provides fibre and is fortified with 11 essential vitamins and minerals.”

Citing an example of brand engagement, Tibb said, “We had organised a contest called 'Khushi Ke Pal' in April this year with three videos, wherein celeb moms – Mandira Bedi, Tara Sharma and Gauri Pradhan, along with brand ambassadors Juhi Chawla and Sneha – shared their 'khushi ke pal' with their kids and invited viewers to write in or send images of their 'khushi ke pal'. The contest attracted over 900 entries from all over India, of which 17 lucky winners emerged. We then organised a two-day event as a grand culmination to the contest to gratify the lucky mother-child duos.”

Can the strategies get better?

Without doubt kids have evolved and so have brands. But can the strategies be made sharper when it comes to conversing with kids?

Kiran Mandrawadkar noted, “With kids usually on gaming platforms, it is ideal to incentivise through brand videos and influence them to connect and e-monitise the life, next level, etc. Kids expect a little fun and it needs a strong connect to ensure that kids relate to the brand beyond the product. Kids represent an important demographic to marketers because in addition to their own purchasing power (which is considerable), they influence their parents' buying decisions and are the adult consumers of the future. Predominantly kids influence – 80% -90% breakfast and lunch choices, 40% -50% where to go for casual family meals, 90% -95% clothing purchases, 60% -70% Games/ Apps/ Software/ Computer/ Tabs and 80% -90% family entertainment choices and family trips and excursions.”

Zafar-Rais-top Zafar Rais

Zafar Rais here opined, “The engagement strategies you choose depend on your function, instruction style, and the target audience. Regardless of the strategies selected, effective assistance is a key to making them work. The connection of gamification and branding has become more common in social and mobile channels? as well?. ?Reaching out to parents is an effective strategy, wherein brands must create value in terms of enhancing education, information and engagement, which parents can see in order to recommend brands to their kids towards their development.”

Monish Ghatalia commented, “Brands often tend to hard sell. With high targets and goals that they have to meet, they have often ended up isolating the parent from their communication approach which has become all the more critical in the digital age. There are a few points that brands would need to keep in mind; first and foremost, do not lock horns with the parent. A responsible brand should be able to ensure that they do not add onto to the plate of growing concerns for parents. Secondly, there are no shortcuts to a child's safety. Making your audience comfortable is a foremost priority while looking cool for the kid and gaining acceptance of the parent.”

“In addition to this, in the process of storytelling, many a times we tend to make our brand the hero. While this may certainly have its short term benefits, customers today want to be seen as the hero and the brand, the process towards which the consumer can aspire to be the hero. In addition, becoming a mentor would help serve the brand's purpose of becoming a part of their consumer's story, which is critical in today's day and age of online engagement,” Ghatalia added.

Ashish Upadhyaya opined that brands would need to take a larger, more holistic view of the role they played in the life of a child and the kind of positive impact they could make. “Any engagement programme that is developed should be able to pass the parent test and the child test,” he added.

Citing an example of the parent test, Upadhyaya said that it involved how it would be good for their child? In what way would it help the child grow, be competitive, be happy, successful, confident, skilled, etc. He continued, “If my child does not have this (brand/ engagement), can it/ will it in any way be disadvantageous for him/her? In the child test, this is cool, the latest, popular, unique, interesting, intelligent, challenging, talks to me and this is not preachy, condescending, nerdy, does not talk at me. This is a good example of a brand engaging digitally in a meaningful way so as to build a lasting relationship with the child. The Navneet program is an authentic and scientifically designed online personality and aptitude test that attempts to help children discover themselves through the discovery of their super powers, their strengths, their interests, etc. It does it in a cool, interesting and engaging manner, highlighting each child's uniqueness through an Avatar. It has been appreciated by parents and children.”

According to Kellogg India's Tibb, “In order to build the right engagement, it is important for brands to unearth the right insight that resonates with moms and kids. For instance, Kellogg's Chocos identified the buddy parenting aspect and built 'Khuljaye Bachpan' campaign around it. Buddy parenting makes way for some unforgettable moments between mother and child and through 'Khuljaye Bachpan', kids and mothers have a symbiotic, fun relationship over Chocos which enables the child to unlock happiness in their childhood. The campaign motivates mothers to nurture intimate, fun relationships with their kids throughout their childhood. Kellogg's Chocos as a fun moment creator for moms to bond with their kids, believes that 'Buddy moms' foster a relationship of equals with their children, thus allowing them to unlock their true potential by exploring life. Buddy moms nurture interdependent relationships with their children from a young age and these relationships are fostered on trust and security.”


Kiran Mandrawadkar affirmed, “We need to facilitate the brand mantra. We need a multi-platform video strategy – Facebook owns Day 1; YouTube, the long-tail. Recently, FMCG brands came up with freebies targeted at kids – recent impulse purchases include Colgate toothpaste and Pears soap. Both were advertised on kids channels (Pogo, Disney Junior, Hungama, Cartoon Network, etc.) and both ended up as, 'Can you please get that pendant for me, papa?' (my daughter chased me) at the departmental store. This is a piece of good marketing strategy. Now, I have those products just because of the influence of my kids.”