The trend of mainstreaming special needs kids into schools and other activities of daily life presents both opportunities and challenges for marketers. Up to 7 million children between ages 6 and 17 have special needs in the U.S. These children need toys, equipment and other supplies as they go to classrooms, camps or to use at home. Marketers may wonder whether and/or how to emphasize or feature special needs children in ad campaigns. A recent article in Youth Markets Alert addressed this topic.
Toys ‘R Us is highlighted in the article as a company that creates a separate toy guide for ‘differently-abled kids’. In addition, popular children’s TV shows such as Arthur and Sesame Street occasionally present characters with special needs. These efforts have been well received. And parents are awaiting this month’s launch of pediatric hearing aids that are branded with characters from SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer.
While these moves have been applauded by parents of special needs children, moms also want information on products. “Parent advocates cite companies that license their characters to products, such as wheelchairs, braces, and hearing aids, to be highly desired by their kids.” In many cases, parents want marketers to normalize their products for special needs children instead of funding causes related to a disability or disease.
The important message seems to be that these families are comfortable with being different but they also appreciate and long for being included as potential consumers of products and services in marketing campaigns, just like everyone else.[Source: Special Needs Children: Brands Struggle to Reach Out to a Growing Niche. Youth Market Alerts. 1 Jun. 2010. Web. 18 Jun. 2010]