Are Brands Really Reaching Out And Engaging With Kids Online – Monish Ghatalia

Monish Ghatalia, Founder at Worldoo talks about what is being done wrong when engaging with kids online and how it could be better


Editor’s note:  This is a guest post by Monish Ghatalia, Founder at Worldoo – the first-of-its-kind website that aims to create a responsible environment for children to learn, express & play.

Did you find yourself hitting an innumerable number of ‘likes’ this year gone by? Or do you find yourself know the full form for the abbreviation ASL? If you have then, this stands as proof that the year gone by has showcased the rise of the adage ‘the consumer is the king’ with a sense of real participation of the consumer in the brand’s way forward strategy. The internet therefore has been the fuel that has helped brands realise the value of consumer participation in building loyalties and strengthening the image of the brand.

In 2015, one can expect online engagement to grow into a more evolved form, allowing for the consumer to be treated more than simply a tool of purchase, but rather an integral part of conversation. In order to achieve this level of engagement, brands will require to develop more focused strategies of communication. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, take your pick of finest crop of social media tools. The catch however is that if you cannot create content that gets your consumer to reply back to you, the value of the same falls tremendously!

An afterthought to this would therefore explore the visual and auditory medium to create conversations with the consumer. A recent example can be seen in terms of global giant Disney jumping onto the band wagon of interactive online consumer engagement on YouTube, however, it was the whole set of independent toy reviews who have managed to drive sales offline for them! The toy reviewers managed to create a whole new experience for parents in seeing natural reactions of kids towards toys and understanding how their own kids would be in their place.

Another aspect of growing importance includes brands re-looking into their product to understand how they can fit in with the rising competition of a child’s tech gadgets.  Whereas, upgrades and new models hardly make much of a difference, the next step is to therefore integrate digital play with tangible toys. Brands such as Barbie allow for girls to design and print dresses for the dolls, whereas the N-Strike Elite Nerf Cam ECS-12 Blaster, is a toy gun with built-in video camera that shoots foam darts.

In addition, Lego launched a game with Lego bricks, a corresponding app and what the company calls a “capture plate.” Children respond to the app’s prompts by building on the capture plate, which enables the app to import an image of the creation into the digital game. Such innovation has not only helped drive sales, but also helped ease parent’s concerns about children and digital media.

Monish GhataliaWhile it may be easier to reach out to the segment of older consumers quite easily, internet access has allowed for brands to build stronger relationships for their future consumers i.e. the children. In the world of internet for kids however, there has been a constant tussle in understanding what they exactly want!

This becomes even more of a concern when the age group that one caters to is below the age of 12 years! There’s lack of data or even accessibility. How can one expect this particular sector to evolve in it’s engagement when the audience doesn’t have the opportunity for a free and fair opportunity to voice an opinion?

When we recently concluded our ‘Let’s Build’ feedback campaign, we realised that parents and educators more than welcomed the idea of internet for kids, setting aside all apprehensions. We also had the opportunity to understand that a lot of the fear being driven into individuals against the internet was the lack of media available online that was dedicated towards the set target audience in the age group of 6-12 years.

The past year also saw the surge in internet giants such as Google and Facebook turning their attention towards kids. A primary reason for this could be attributed to the fact that kids today are getting increasingly tech savvy and are already reaching out for tablets over their teddy bears. In India alone, 134 million children are expected online by the year 2017 (according to The Boston Consulting Group) therefore encouraging more brands to tap kids online and in doing so simultaneously create an influence over the parents as well. Starting off young will help ensure that a level of trust is built for adulthood.

Another important highlight of the feedback received is that there was no single driving factor behind engagement for kids online. Whereas, it is common to believe that kids go online to play games, a glaring fact however, remains that there is no other form of engagement created that kids can develop an interest in.

Instead of brands taking on the role of a decision maker, it is time that brands are able to construct content that their audience really wants to see! Isn’t it enough that parents make all decisions for their young ones? Why then should brands also be playing only a decisive role in a child’s life? Isn’t it time to construct a worldview that helps one engage with kids online without invading one’s privacy?

In engaging with the kiddie consumer online, the industry is showing a gradual shift from targeting only the parents and the child at one time. Going dual has not only helped them increase sales and understanding of which product works better with the child, but also build more trust in the product. Such duality lays can help create further relevance while planning larger offline activities and initiatives for consumer engagements in the time to come.

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