11 August 2007

Planet kids: Coffee and Donuts/Jan 07/Suresh Mohankumar, JWT Planning, Chennai

Planet Kids
What appeals to kids and why ?

Why do kids act the way they do? Why do they love cartoons and video games? Why do they love horror movies? Why are they so captivated by negative themes? Why do some brands hold them captive while others do not seem to exist as far as they are concerned? Why do they wear different behavioral masks ever so often? Why do they keep changing all the time?

Why are gangs so big with them? Why do they love spending so much time outside of their homes? Why do they dig technology and fashion? Why do they love doing certain things and not others? Why do they like some people, while being totally cold towards others? questions that continue to plague parents, teachers, brand managers and behavioral scientists alike.We have attempted answering these questions through secondary research and by creating a framework that captures the key drivers in the life of kids.

Scientifically speaking
Brain growth, cognition, needs and success stories; Dan S. Acuff in his book ‘What kids buy and why’ offers tantalizing insights into these topics.
3-7 years – The Fantasy Phase
Brain growth
- right hemisphere development
- specialize on nonlinear, non logical abilities
- they cannot pay much attention to verbal communication
- they love accumulating; want ‘lots of stuff’
- spontaneous and illogical
- impulsive and reactive
- they think in black and white, right and wrong
- their minds tell them that virtually anything is possible, non human objects are given human characteristics.
- to be busy
- to be entertained
- to be safe and protected
- to have power and independence
- to be a super hero and super sports star
Success stories
Power rangers: Teen gang of do-gooders, they fight evil as they turn ordinary teens to super heroes
8-12 years – The Rules Phase
Brain growth
- left brain development takes place
- they can now think more rationally and logically
- in order to be perceived by themselves and by others as having grown up they aggressively push away the seemingly more childish concepts in toys and even apparel.
- they are now able to appreciate and pay attention to details
- social skills develop; they form groups
- they become brand conscious and discerning
- they get tired of simple communication and demand more complex reality based toys
- they have a sense of what is cool and what isn’t
- they develop an attraction for the darker side of life, there is also an increased attraction to the bad boys of the society.
- to be popular
- to be attractive
- to tackle rules
- to compete
Success stories
- Playstation, Barbie
13-15 years – ‘I am no kid’ Phase
Brain development
- mid brain development complete
- is able to go beyond simple black and white thinking
- starts challenging established beliefs and points of view
- can understand the subtleties of innuendo, sarcasm and irony
- this is the period of identity formation, opinion formation
- will have mood swings could distance themselves from parents.
- looking good, power and self esteem gains increasing importance
- peers play an enormous role in decision making
- a period of experimentation, they try on various faces before deciding on the one they will wear for life.
- an urge to push aside the status quo
- they crave for increased independence
- to be accepted by peers
- to have a self identity
- to experiment with adult programs and products
Success stories
- Nike and Levis
16-19 years – The End of Childhood phase
Brain growth
- prefrontal lobe development takes place giving them the ability to empathize and to control impulsive reaction
- The fully developed brain gives them the ability to act and react like an adult
- logical operations they are increasingly able to perform complex and abstract tasks
- subjects like career, future, relationships, identity will be of increased importance
- to be successful
- to be autonomous
- to belong and hang out
Success stories
- Pulsar, Axe

Kid Themes – A JWT Framework

Conceived as an alternative to the world of adults, but has much in common with it. Serves as a finishing school for the games they will play as adults. Gangs are an integral part of their lives; and is their attempt to run away from the world controlled by rules dictated by adults. There is an immense pressure to confirm within these gangs and they are shrouded in mystery. These gangs are run by a set of very clearly laid out rules and there is a constant tussle within the gang to figure out the hierarchy. Gangs intuitively seek out ‘autonomous zones’, places where the adult right does not run. Street corners, playgrounds, coffee shops and school after school hours serve as autonomous zones.

Technology serves as an important tool for distancing themselves from the world of adults. Adults are constantly fumbling with technology. It is something adults do not understand or are comfortable with. They take great pride in talking to parents about the Nokia N series and the features that it has. They regularly go online to chat, download music and play games. They may not all own cell phones, yet, however dads or moms phone is always handy to send SMSs or MMSs to friends. Playstations and X Boxes are what cycles were twenty years ago.

Fashion gurus
Fashion serves as a parallel tool for distancing from adults. Girls love pedal pushers, capris and sleeve less tops. Guys love coolers and jackets. They don’t like to go shopping for clothes with parents; they just cannot put up with adult chides to their fashion tastes. Fashion brands have noticed their love for adultish taste “We use a lot of sheer fabric, deeper necklines and more strappy tops in the kids segment because what looks
outrageous by Indian standards on an adult merely looks adorable on children” says Sanjeev Mohanty, Marketing Head Benneton India.

Thrill seekers
They love horror; the spookier it is the better. It is their way of saying “I can handle this can you?” Their heroes are no longer out there trying to save the world. Instead they kidnap and hold fairies for ransom in pursuit of their riches – meet Artemis Fowl the super criminal. They love stuff that can gross you out. Mock roaches, rubber skulls that ooze out blood when you squeeze them are the kind of things that drive them mad. Fantasy is still a pet love but it has to push every limit, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have done this with every sequel. They love speed and action. They love Vin Diesel especially in ‘Fast and the Furious’ Cruiser bikes and sports cars are high on their list of most admired items.

Cool and uncool
There are cool and uncool people and there are cool and uncool activities.Besides the strategies they have adopted to cope with authority figures and to be seen as more grown up is what really defines this tribe is their worldview. Cool people are those who don’t break into a sweat even when the world around them is going on fire. They never get tense or take things too seriously. Cool people are also those who enjoy every minute of their lives. In their world you are cool if you have style: if you dress right, talk right and act right then you pass the ‘coolness test’. Sania is cool not just because of what she does on the tennis court but also because of her glasses and her nose ring. Kareena and Salman are seen as uncools because they are rude and selfish show-offs. Linkin Park and Shaan are cool but anyone who tries too hard at being cool are definitely uncool.


They are cynical about brands and advertising. A brand can never barge into their world. It needs to be invited in. Brands need to go through the gang initiation process. The brand needs to come through as their ally,someone who has an innate understanding of what they are seeking, someone who would stand by them in their continued struggle against adults and their rules. They love advertising that is fast paced, interactive, irreverent and something that rivals Playstation and X box in terms of graphics and production values.

There are four major drivers in the life of pre teens

They want to be the only one in control of their life. Brands that offer them control albeit for a short while will be friends for keeps. Give them a sense of importance within their family and peer group and they will love you for it.

They are not the kid you were when you were of their age. They hate being patronized, they still enjoy going one up on adults but it needs to be handled with ‘mature’ gloves, forget all the over the top slapstick stuff.

They want it all and they want it now. They would surely appreciate anything that would make them a Bill Gates or a Dhoni or both.

Don’t try too hard to be their pal they will hate you for it. A slightly standoffish demeanor, a dash of mystery and tones of style is what you need to really hit it off with them.

But whatever you do never treat him like a kid and don’t bother telling him what to do.

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