As a mother, this is something that I worry about a lot, and this is the ethical dilemma that marketers of children’s products face every day, but I don’t think that it needs to be an either or. I believe that there’s a way to market to children ethically and that as marketers it’s our responsibility to do so.
These are a few key ways that you be sure to pitch your marketing message to children ethically:
Focus Only on The Product
One of the best ways to market products to adults is to sell the experience or the lifestyle rather than the product itself. This is why you see beer ads depicting friends making memories and car commercials showing people looking cool and sexy driving the newest sporty coupe. You can market to adults in that way because they don’t need to rely on the messages that are bombarding them to understand life and figure out what they want out of it.
Children, however, are still figuring life out. There’s so much that kids don’t know, and all of the things that they’re told and shown inform them about what should be like. This means that your marketing message, as trivial and innocuous as it may seem, is actually helping them to understand the world around them. That’s a big responsibility and one that as a marketer you probably don’t want.
So instead of selling children’s products by making kids think that they need them to be popular or cool or the best athlete, just sell your product for what it is. Focus on your product’s benefits but don’t make any promises about what that product can do for them.
Don’t imply that your product is anything other than what it really is. Just be honest. Kids already have great imaginations – you don’t need to imagine up greatness for them. Stand behind whatever actually makes your product great and shout it from the rooftops. In fact, if you feel like you need to bend the truth some to sell your product, you should probably go back to the drawing board (or find a job elsewhere) because a crummy product with clever smarmy marketing isn’t going to stand the test of time.
This is a really important best practice with any product regardless of who your audience is. Remember, by being honest, you may sell fewer products initially but you’ll have substantially higher customer satisfaction and that’s the stuff that brand loyalty and advocacy are built on.
Sell to Parents
Your audience may be children, but their parents are the ones with the plastic. So instead of marketing to children and then hope that they’ll beg their parents for your products, why not generate interest with kids and then appeal to parents as well? Make parents want to buy something instead of feeling guilted or pressured into it and they’ll be happier. For instance, you can pitch children on how fun and versatile your product is and then pitch parents on how educational it is – this is a win-win because both audiences will be happy with the purchase.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!