Everyone these days, whether child or adult, is bombarded with advertising messages for every possible product and service. While developing creative and engaging advertisements that stand out is a challenge, businesses that market to children need to be extra careful to follow the rules put in place by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Marketing products and services to children is a complex business, one where organizations need to take extra care, self-regulate and always follow the rules.
Children in the United States watch thousands of television commercials each year, up to 16,000 according to some reports. As a result, parents are concerned about the effects advertising can have on children. Some critics say advertising leads to behaviors like poor impulse control and childhood obesity, so it’s important for businesses to address these concerns. After all, in most cases, the parents are still the buyers of children’s products and therefore need to be appeased.
Figure Out Your Audience
The first step in developing effective advertising is to understand your audience. When marketing to children, this becomes an even more complex task because the age of the child really affects his interests, behavior, likes and dislikes. For example, a 3-year-old will have vastly different motivations and challenges than a 7-year-old.
If your business develops products or services for children, conduct market research into who your audience is, how old they are and what they care about. Children’s interests also shift frequently depending on which brands are popular or which television characters are trending, so it’s also important to keep up with the fluctuations.
Don’t Forget the Parents
Depending on how old your end users are, it’s likely that their parents are going to be the main buyers of your product or service. For example, while some teenagers may have the funds to purchase your products, most young children will require their parents to buy it for them.
As a result, in your audience research you’ll also need to consider the parents as an important segment. Figure out what their motivations are and what they want for their kids. What is their income, and how do they want to spend their money? What characteristics do they value and want to see in their kids?
Knowing this information about both of your audience segments, the end users and the buyers, will help you to develop the right messaging for your kids advertisement. This will also help you to determine what kind of imagery the audience wants to see. Do you want to show other kids using the products, or do you want to show the results of the product?
Develop an Attractive Message
All creative campaign ideas need an attractive message that resonates with the target audience. Before you begin creating your kids' advertisement, it’s important to develop a unique value proposition for your product or service. What is it about your business that makes you stand out from your competition? Why should your audience care?
Be sure to consider both of your audience segments, the end users and the buyers, and develop messaging that appeals to each of their personas. For example, if your business sells pool toys for children like fanciful pool floats shaped like unicorns and dragons, you’ll need to sell your product to both the children and the adults.
For the kids, your message may involve how unique your designs are and how fantastical the floats will look to their friends. For the parents, you may want to focus on the BPA-free materials you use, the durability of the product and the competitive price. It’s best to tailor your messaging as specifically as possible to the audience you’re targeting in your advertising so they pay attention and are compelled to act.
Create a Compelling Call to Action
You may think that the best call to action in any advertisement is to buy the product or service. However, this isn’t always the case, especially not when advertising for kids. That’s because the kids are not always the buyers.
In cases where you know the end user is not the direct buyer of your product or service, you may want to consider alternate calls to action. These can include inviting the kids to learn more about the products on your website or visiting your store location to see the cool designs.
Alternate calls to action often require the children and the parents to work together, so it’s a way to get the buyers involved in the purchasing process without explicitly asking them to buy your product. For example, most young kids can’t go to a website on their own, and almost all young kids will need their parents to bring them to a store.
Follow Truth-in-Advertising Laws
In the United States, the FTC is a government agency that protects consumers and maintains competition. They develop and enforce laws that organizations must follow when developing advertising for any audience. They also establish and enforce special rules for kids’ advertisements.
Their truth-in-advertising laws state that all advertisements must be truthful. They cannot be deceptive in any way or be unfair. In addition, any claims made in the advertisements need to be evidence based. If the FTC finds that your advertisement has violated their rules, you can be fined several hundred or thousand dollars and face civil penalties.
Many advertisements for adults feature over-the-top exaggerations. However, for children, those kinds of depictions are not allowed because many kids are not able to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. If you’re advertising a kids’ hair salon, for example, you cannot say that the new hairdo will make the girl into an actual princess because that is not a factual statement.
Abide by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act
A special set of rules developed and enforced by the FTC is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This enables parents of children under the age of 13 to control what information is shared about their children online through websites they visit. If your business collects information online from kids under the age of 13, it’s important to comply with the COPPA rules on your website and in any advertisements.
Choose the Advertising Venue With the Best Outcome
When deciding how to advertise to your target audience, consider your main goals. Are you looking to increase your brand awareness with a large campaign budget? In that case, a broad TV advertising campaign might be the best venue for your business. Are you looking to build brand loyalty and have a limited budget? Then online remarketing ads or social media ads might be the best choice.
Figure out which advertising vehicles will provide you with the best results based on your audience persona and the goals you want to achieve. You can target your audience through multiple advertising mediums by choosing the best combination to meet your objectives.
Using TV Advertisements
Advertising on TV is usually limited to large corporations with massive marketing budgets because it is a very cost-intensive marketing activity. If your small business isn’t able to advertise on TV, you may not be out of luck. These days, TV commercials may not be as effective as once thought because many households don’t have cable TV and instead watch their favorite shows and movies through sites like Netflix.
If your business is able to advertise on TV, you’ll find that this venue is effective for sending a broad message to a varied audience. Because it can be difficult to target, your messaging will need to appeal to a number of audience segments, such as children (end users), parents (buyers) and friends and family (secondary buyers).
Using Print Advertisements
Marketing ideas for kids include running advertisements in print publications like children’s magazines. These kinds of publications are geared toward children of specific ages, and some are grouped by interest or theme, so it is easier to target your end users.
For example, if your business sells kids’ bikes, you can look into advertising in magazines that target children ages 4 to 12. Focus on the ones that include games and stories about playing outside or that focus on things to do in warm weather, as opposed to magazines about video gaming or winter sports.
Using Billboards and Signage
Many companies choose to advertise through billboards and signage. This can be an effective way to grab the attention of children due to the sheer size of these images. The key to this kind of advertisement is placement. You don’t want to purchase advertising space in a location where children seldom venture. Instead, focus on high-traffic areas that see a lot of kids in your demographic, such as shopping malls, movie theaters, indoor play areas and children’s activity areas like hockey rinks and dance studios.
Using Online Advertisements
These days, it’s common for children to be online from a young age. Whether they are reading articles, writing blogs, posting pictures or playing games, the internet is a place where kids hang out. As such, it’s a place where advertisers focus their attention.
Marketing ideas for kids include placing search and text ads for common keywords associated with your brand and using remarketing ads to target those who have visited your website. This way, your business can keep your brand top of mind for consumers.
Using Social Media Advertisements
Advertising on social media can be complex, but it can also come with big results. There are a number of ways to use social media to promote your products and services, such as through graphic ads, text ads and remarketing ads.
Many brands now use social media influencers to promote their products and services to their followings. Influencers are essentially celebrities of a sort, with large followings of people who value what they say. Companies can pay influencers to talk about using their products as a way to compel children to want them.
Multivenue Kids' Advertisement Campaigns
Many businesses advertise their products and services to children through multivenue campaigns, ensuring their brand captures their audience’s attention in several different ways. For example, a children’s clothing company may advertise in kids’ magazines, through remarketing ads on social media and on product packaging for related items. Through a multipronged approach, they can reach a wider audience while staying relevant in the minds of consumers.
Small businesses can also participate in these kinds of campaigns by developing their strategies wisely. If your small business sells handmade dolls, for example, you can advertise in your local newspaper to reach parents and online on social media to reach children. In addition, partnering with another business that sells a complementary product, like clothes for the dolls, can help you gain more marketing exposure.
Make Ethical Choices
When advertising to kids, it’s important to make ethical choices. Not only is it regulated by the FTC, it’s part of societal responsibility. The most effective way to ethically advertise to children involves speaking to the parents. Ensure that your advertisements help parents see the benefits of your products and why they are safe for their children.
Another effective way to advertise to kids while following ethical guidelines is to let kids become the brand ambassadors. Give kids a place to talk about your products and services, such as in a dedicated social media group or channel. Give kids the tools to start fan-curated blogs or host an art or essay-writing contest. Kids love creating content, and giving them an outlet to do so will help them talk about your brand so you can develop a loyal following.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.