Is your product or service primarily meant for children 13 years of age or younger? If so, you may have hit an ethical wall that has made you question whether it’s appropriate to market to young, impressionable minds.
According to a study done by the University of Wollongong, “there are questions about the ability of children so young to understand advertising and its intent and not be deceived and manipulated by it. Experts say that children don’t understand persuasive intent until they are eight or nine years old and that it is unethical to advertise to them before then.”
The topic has been debated and the Federal Trade Commission has noted that it’s important to comply with the truth-in-advertising standards when marketing to children. They also have a special page about food advertising to children to help curb the obesity epidemic. Marketing to children should be done truthfully, carefully, and respectfully in order to comply with FTC guidelines, and be ethically responsible.
So why market to children at all? It comes down to a simple fact: children oftentimes influence purchasing decisions. According to a report done by TIME, “71% of parents say they solicit opinions from their kids regarding purchases. Nearly all let the kids weigh in when what’s being bought is mainly for the kids themselves, but more than two-thirds of parents take their kids’ views into consideration when making family purchases.”
With that in mind, here are 5 different campaigns that successfully (and respectfully) marketed to children:
- For those under the age of 13, social media is off-limits when it comes to rules set forth by popular platforms, such as Facebook. There are always some parents who will allow their kids to bend the rules and join early, but those who keep their kids away from the world of social networking present a unique challenge to businesses whose products or services are primarily for children under 13. That’s why LEGO created a social network called LEGO Life, which has “won approval from parents and consumer groups since going live on January 31,” according to the American Marketing Association.
- The General Mills “Box Tops for Education” program was created in 1996. The idea is simple: have children clip box tops to bring to their classrooms so they can earn cash to buy things, such as books, computers, and more. General Mills has since expanded the program to include other brands, such as Pillsbury and Green Giant, as well as non-food brands, such as Ziploc and Kleenex. Schools can earn money through the program, while children know to encourage their parents to buy certain brands so they can clip the box tops and bring them to school. It’s a simple campaign with return on each side, and both parents and teachers have been on board with it as well, making it an effective tactic that has lasted over 20 years.
- Scholastic has been holding book fairs at schools for more than 30 years. According to their website, their book fairs sell more than 100 million books around the world every year. The initiative aligns with their mission, which is to “help children become avid readers and lifelong learners.” In addition to the fairs, the program has branched out to social media, encouraging educators to share photos of a book fair at their school with the hashtag #mybookfair. The allure of the book fair with its plethora of options draws in students of many ages, and creates brand recognition and awareness for children, who remember the fairs even as they grow older.
- We’ll also include examples from our clients, such as the Bangor Area Stormwater Group (BASWG). BASWG focuses on educating the public about stormwater management and they realized that engaging the next generation of Maine residents was important to their purpose. Pulse Marketing Agency created a video game for BASWG based on this idea. We decided to create a two-dimensional side scrolling game hosted online that would teach children about eliminating pollutants before they reach our water sources. We titled the game “Stomp Out Pollution” and children play as a child-like character and jump on pollutants to eliminate them while collecting water droplets for points as they navigate the game. If they accidentally collect three pollutants, they start over and try again. The game helps children identify what potential water pollutants look like and avoid them, which creates a connection that helps them recognize the pollutants in real life as well.
- Finally, we’ll touch on a campaign that we completed for Bangor Public Health. We started “A Healthy Bangor Stars With You” in 2014 and did many things for the campaign, but our primary promotion was a contest for students in grades K-12 in the Bangor public school system. We asked them to send us a list of 10 ways to stay healthy while having fun and the winners participated in a video PSA and got a bag filled with prizes. We got great responses and a 7th grade science class even made it into a science project!