Tween Brand Loyalty Keyed By Parental Approval

Nintendo DS, Wii, Oreo, and McDonald's top the list of most-​loved brands among 6–12 year olds, according to marketing agency Smarty Pants' "Young Love" report on the 100 most loved brands among kids aged 6–12. The report separates well-​known brands, such as Nintendo's DS and Wii, that are strongly identifiable on their own.Consumer Spending logo

According to the report — which encompasses more than 260 consumer brands across 20 categories — kids in this age group gravitate towards iconic, familiar, inclusive, and parent-​approved brands. "Interestingly, the lead driver of cross-​category affinity among kids is  age-​appropriateness  Safe, easy, permissible content are what drive kid (and mom) appeal," says Smarty Pants' Wynne Tyree.

Cross-​generational appeal is important. "Kid affinity and parent affinity are highly correlated because kids want their parents' approval and engagement, and parents want their kids to be happy," she says. "Brands that allow families to connect are stronger overall; it's why non-​polarizing brands like Crayola, Disney and Wii rise to the top." Affordability is also a top 10 driver of kid affinity since it "increases the likelihood you can buy it with your own money or your mom will buy it for you."

The study also helps demystify "kid cool".  Amongst kids and tweens, cool is not an elusive phenomenon based in playground or cafeteria buzz and aspiration. "[Kids and tweens] connect cool to aesthetics and functionality. They don't define it based on what others feel or do. iPod is not cool because lots of people have one; it's cool because the actual device is visually appealing and fascinating to kids," says Tyree.

Key tactics brands can employ to raise their profile among 6–12-year olds:
Empowerment. It's important to offer a variety of options within your brand. From Doritos flavor varieties to online game choice, options lead to kids' feeling of control and opportunities for customization. "Subway is a great example of how to win with tweens-​they get to customize every component of theirmeal, shifting the power from mom in the front seat to kid at the counter," says Tyree.

Focus On Product Design. "Kids know what high quality looks and feels like, and they are drawn to brands that look great, function well, product interactivity and have some wow factor," says Tyree. While kid advertising does enhance brand affinity, it's the products that either delight or fall short.

Deliver news within brand. Kids gravitate to familiar brands they can trust. News or innovation from a tried-​and-​true brand fairs better than the creation of a new brand. "The perception is that kids and tweens aren't brand loyal and that they brand hop to satisfy their desires for novelty.  In fact, familiar brands offer a ‘guarantee' to kids; and within brand innovation gives them reasons to stay engaged," says Tyree.

Speak to the whole family. Invite the whole family to the brand party by delivering communications and cues that assure both parents and kids that your brand was designed for them.  "Kid messaging works, but parent-​directed communication ensures availability and access, which ultimately drive affinity for both parents and kids. It's possible to create winning brands that have no direct-​to-​kids advertising, as evidenced in brands like Oreo."

Smarty Pants, Wynne Tyree, President, 14 Dove Tree Ln., Jonesborough, TN 37659.  Phone: 203–847-5766.  Email: wtyree@​asksmartypants.​com.  Website:  www​.asksmartypants​.com.