Brand news to engage with today’s kids online

ONE of the unintended consequences of new media technology has been to open up a gap between generations in terms of media interaction. Not long ago we inhabited a world were broadly similar, for instance, kids watched TV in the same way as their parents or grandparents did.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the media environment is largely characterised by fractured media consumption among different age groups.

All of which has a big impact on how marketers and businesses try to reach and influence different demographics. Recent research by Lightspeed Research/New Media Age (NMA) “Kids and Digital Media” offers a fascinating insight into how children in the digital age consume and share media through technology.

The main discovery of the research is that the internet is the top media channel for 8 to 15 year olds, with mobile phones acting as the major touch point.

Nearly 30 per cent of the children interviewed said that the internet was more important to their lives than TV. The figures are reinforced by qualitative research from Discovery/NMA, which looked in detail at how integral the internet is to lives of young people.

They found: “Today’s children are a generation that expects instant access to entertainment and friends, uses digital media to convey its identity, turns to YouTube as its preferred search channel and eschews email for more immediate communication with friends.”

Unsurprisingly social media plays a critical role in the day-to-day lives of children. The research by NMA found that Facebook is the most popular social network with over 90 per cent of 13 to 15-year-olds using what has become the world’s largest social network.

However, Facebook isn’t the only social network popular with kids with 48 per cent using a school-related social community, 17 per cent using Twitter. Marketers will be interested to know that ‘likiing’ a brand on Facebook is popular with over half of kids reporting that they have done this.

The report also highlighted the huge importance that mobile phones and especially smartphones, play in children’s lives.

Some 81 per cent of kids aged between 8 and 12 own a mobile phone, rising to 99 per cent for 13 to 15-year-olds.

However, kids are not primarily using their mobiles for voice calls. The vast majority – 75 per cent – are using the mobiles for texting, presumably because of the huge allowance of text messages they receive from their telecoms providers, which mean texting is a very cheap form of communication.

The importance of YouTube is also explored in the NMA report which found that appointment-to-view TV has decreased with kids opting to view small clips of shows rather than watching the entire programmes.

So what does all this mean for brands and marketing? Part of the challenge marketers who want to promote their brands and products to children is to understand that they are targeting a unique audience in a time of huge technology change.

Brands that had traditionally spent the largest part of their media budget on TV to reach kids need to have a closer look at recent findings and work out how they can use multiple online channels and strategies if they want to be successful.

Paul McGarrity is director of Belfast-based Internet marketing consultancy Octave Online Communication, which helps business and organisations to benefit from online marketing strategy and campaigns.