Thursday, June 22, 2006

Honey! I shrunk the consumers

“Our families rejoice – a new life’s begun. Our circle is richer with the birth of this one!” A happy couple sent out this card when their precious bundle of joy arrived in this world. Little did they realize that along with them, LG, McDonald’s, Whirlpool, Surf Excel rejoiced too. A consumer was born!

Yes its true; today, the age of the target segment seems to be shrinking. Advertisers are realizing the urgency of targeting children while they are still in their diapers; lest some competitor should snatch them away. Advertisers are making their pitches to younger & younger audiences. Today, the age of the target audience has dropped down to two years. No wonder, recent studies have shown that children as young as 36 months can recognize an average of 100 brand logos. According to the Center for a New American Dream, babies as young as six months of age can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots. So, by the time they are 2 years old, they could very well become your loyal consumers. They are, after all, your future breadwinners, and hence worth investing on today. Going by numbers: from $100 million in 1990, today the spending on advertising to children has increased to more than $2 billion. An early bird catches the worm – and marketers are starting as early as possible.

“No means no...” But actually not for long; and every child knows that. They have to just keep on asking till parents give in and buy them what they so desperately want. This “keep asking strategy” is reaping rich dividends not just for children, but for marketers too. They have, in fact, quantified it too. On an average, kids have to ask nine times till their parents give in. That’s for the ones who are 12-17 year old. The younger ones are even more persistent. They don’t hesitate to ask for the same thing more than fifty times. It takes enormous will power to refuse fifty times... and parents do give in. Marketers apparently had never underestimated the ‘power’ of a whining child; and those who have used this ‘power’ have raked in the moolah too. So all you do is keep the ads coming, and wait for the child to change the “No” to “Yes”.

just for kids

“I love you Rasna,” cooed a cute moppet, and soon every child wanted to drink Rasna. But that was a long time ago when things were simpler and little kids played with little cute toys. Today, it’s the era of ‘Beyblades’. Anyone with a child in the age group of 4 to 14 years knows what I am talking about. Rasna has done it again. It has once again managed to hook its target audience. It has started India’s first Beyblade Championship. As the little ones imitate their favourite Beyblade characters (“Tyson” and “Ray”) and many more, the company is all set to count the money. As the Beyblades start spinning, so do fortunes, and Rasna and the kids shout in unison, “Three, two, one, ho ja shuru!!!” Even ICICI is not far behind Rasna. It started the “Young Stars” account. No marks for guessing their brand ambassadors – Tom & Jerry. They captured the hearts of generations of youngsters & today are capturing their wallets!

The charm of a child is irresistible and no one knows it better than a mother and a marketer... and of course, McDonald’s! From the ambience of their outlet, to their concept of “Happy Meals,” this intelligent firm has made sure that kids drag their parents to McDonald’s outlets every time they want to eat out. The 2 billion dollars that McDonald’s shells out every year sure seems to be effective. So the Indian version of McDonald’s – Nirula’s – is trying to catch up by offering free ice-creams to students who have excelled in their examinations. Novartis decided to go a step further with its best seller Calcium Sandoz. It went directly to schools in Ahmedabad and distributed Calcium Sandoz in doggy packs along with doggie eraser, scale and pencil. After all, it pays to catch them young.

We are the world; We are the children...

The future of mother earth rests on the tiny shoulders of young children. So does the onus of building market shares in today’s business era. Today, competitors are using these tiny people to fight it out with their competitors in the market place. Who would have thought that purchase decisions on products like cars, washing machines and washing powders would be decided by children! But that’s a fact. Today, children decide almost everything, and parents are too stressed and short of time to hold their ground. Today, children are more aware about products and brands available, than even their parents.

Today, those are kids who decide whether they want a stylish car, or a big car, or a fuel efficient one. So while Maruti Suzuki shows an irate father shouting, “Oye Chhote bas kar yaar,” to stop his child from driving his toy car all over the place, the smart Chhote chirps back, “Papa ki karan, petrol khatam hi nahin honda!” The father slaps his forehead in awe and appreciates the lad and calls him a champion. Hyundai Santro knows that the little girl who gives away all her piggy bank saving for a “maroon car” will have her way. So, while the whole house wishes for the black, it’s got to be the maroon which the loving “Chachu” Shah Rukh gets for his loving niece. “Hoga Har Sapna Sakaar” promises a Santro to all the little decision makers.

If that were not enough, it’s not just the colours, but the size of the car which is decided by these lilliputs. So, when the school girl says that Maruti Esteem is a big car, her father feels he’s done well in life and smiles. Not to be outsmarted,

Indica advocates, “If you can’t have it, snatch it.” So the little sweetheart runs away with the bigger car of another boy. After all, it’s only human to want more, and Indica gives more. Be it mileage or comfort or color or style, kids know it all. Marketers are waking up to this fact. So, Surf Excel did not hesitate to give up the hard working, thrifty Lalitaji in favour of the charming brother who fights with the puddle that made his sister cry. Sachin and Shah Rukh were unable to pull it off alone, and Britannia and Sunfeast have to use the charms of two little naughty boys to convince the kids to buy their biscuits. If you have to win a trophy, eat a Sunfeast biscuit. If you want to be naughty, you need the energy of Britannia Tiger. And if you have to outsmart the adults, have a Parle-G. It’s no more just star power, but kid power, which makes ads work today.

While for all these years Horlicks used to talk to mothers about nutritious value of their products, now its “Aipong, Opang, Jhapang” for the smart child who needs no one to convince him what’s good for him. The mother just stands and appreciates the choice her child makes. All these years Colgate had been the market leader with its famous “Ring of Confidence,” which kept the family and the company’s market share safe. When competitor Pepsodent came in, it talked directly to the child and promised him that his mother would allow him all the things which were not good for his teeth, because Pepsodent would fight away all the germs. It was not just the germs, but also now “Dhishum-Dhishum” for Colgate’s market share and it learnt its lesson well. It tried hurriedly to scramble back with the help of a tiny kid’s voice that said “Mera Colgate. Meri big Suraksha.” Kids are a force to reckon with – you can’t ignore them. It’s a fact that kids influence 43% of the brand purchase decisions. Advertisers are pulling out all steps to keep kids surrounded by advertisements. India’s top advertising spenders are those whose products are consumed predominantly by children. Nestle tops the charts, followed by Britannia and Cadbury.

The New Movie-Goers

Back in 1977, little boys carried “Howdy Doody” lunch boxes to school, after watching “Star Wars.” No one could imagine back then the amount this industry would grow. We all know that the five “Star Wars” films grossed nearly $5.7 billion in box office sales worldwide. However, what skipped the attention of many was another stunning number. Toys and merchandise sales of the movie were a staggering 9 billion dollars. Add to this another $4.3 billion towards video games and DVD sales. Every hit movie spawns a whole new set of toys for children. Toy Story almost spawned a mini industry in Buzz Lightyear merchandise. Months before a Harry Potter film hits the theatres, the sale of its merchandise goes to dizzying heights. Harry Potter is so much of a craze that Bajaj Discover has used a look-alike to promote the sale of its bikes in India.

On the Indian turf too, “Koi Mil Gaya” captured the imagination of thousands of young children as they flocked to the movie hall with their parents and later bought “Jadoo” merchandise. Kids are so important today that movie makers are writing scripts and action directors are directing action scenes so that they can be converted into video games for children. It said that action sequences of Star Wars were tailor-made for video games. Be it Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, or Laurel & Hardy, all the movies which entertain kids were always very popular. However, George Lucas with his Star Wars showed the world how to build a fortune too! No wonder, instead of a pay rise, he was happy when 20th Century Fox gave him the merchandising and sequel rights of all the Star Wars films!

Hi-tech Boom

No time for parents to buy you a pet? Don’t worry children, all you need to do is log on to, and own a virtual pet, all yours to love and to take care of in just a few seconds. This website is loaded with games full of opportunities for brands to tout their logos & ads. Today, this site has around 11 million users. Children prefer it to watching TV. The Neopia food shops sell Nestle sweets, Oreo Cookies et al to name a few. The Disney Theater link on this site shows cereal ads of General Mills. So, as children take care of their pets, they get familiar with various brands without even realizing it. is another of those gaming sites where brands have linked their names to games so that children don’t forget them. We don’t need no education

Kids are glued to their TV sets. Most have one in their bedrooms. An average child sees 20,000 commercials every year. They are exposed to so much, so soon, that by 3 years, many are demanding products with specific brand names. It’s no surprise that children know more about Ronald McDonald than about their local heroes. Just when you thought you could turn off the TV and switch away your problems, you have Channel One. It offers a 12-minute news broadcast daily to more than seven million teens across American schools. Advertisers are ready to give their right arm to be a part of the commercial break that comes with this 12 minute news broadcast! Channel One does not hesitate to charge $195,000 for a 30 second ad. Where else would you get such a large captive audience!

Marketers are running helter-skelter to find ways to tap this burgeoning market. Kids surely are the new consumers. According to an estimate, 24% of the US population are kids, and the figure is estimated to remain stable till 2020. Clearly, marketers are finding newer ways to reach out to this huge market and communicate to them. So put on your Harry Potter glasses and start thinking-small, for honey, we just shrunk the consumers!

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