CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Looking at brands through childrens eyes
Article Type: Practitioner perspective From: Young Consumers, Volume 12, Issue 4
Where would Luke Skywalker be without Darth Vader? Superman without kryptonite (and a myriad of foes)? Ben 10 without the alien warlord? Has anyone ever wondered? Would Luke’s adventures be just as riveting if he were not fighting for his life and The Force, if he were just hanging about watching TV? No adventure is really complete without a conflict (often in the form of a bad guy, the “badder” the better, the meaner, the more cunning, the more compelling). It took a group of eight year olds to open my eyes to the power of this truth.
But first, let’s back track to 1963. This is when Kellogg’s first launched their Froot Loops cereal. It was branded with what was to become quite an iconic character, Toucan Sam (http://tinyurl.com/3pcldqv). Whilst Mickey Mouse might not have been feeling too threatened, Toucan Sam was the sort of brand character that kids really looked up to, he was a great brand ambassador for Froot Loops. His positioning was well defined and clear. Iconic.
Over the years however he started to lose some feathers, his followers grew up and moved on and the new generation were confronted with an altogether more lack-lustre bird who had lost his vitality and charisma.
By 2005 sales were dropping steadily and the CKC team were selected to help determine why and what could be done to reverse this. In order to achieve this we first needed to gain an in-depth understanding of Kellogg’s young consumers’ connections to this once popular cereal and character.
This required us to ask complex questions of six to eight year olds, not always an easy task, but something we were quite keen to do. Kellogg’s had already established, via quantitative research, that a modified positioning needed to be developed in order to at least halt this decline and possibly reverse it. What we needed to do was define the core brand strengths and then build on these. What to keep and what to throw away is always a tough one. So many brands before have literally thrown the baby out with the bath water. It is a delicate operation to perform and more so when the audience themselves might struggle to articulately explain what appeals and what repels!
Our research approach had to enable us to discover a whole new way of looking at brands – through a child’s eyes. This is where storytelling becomes our focus. Successful brands are those that tell a strong and compelling story. Our research hinged on using storytelling as our primary tool. This time however it would not be the brand telling the story – we would be asking the children to generate and complete stories.
Through a combination of drawings, pictures and words as stimulus for “start-points” of stories, our team worked with groups of young people who were asked to expand on how the adventures of the key brand character, Toucan Sam, could develop by orally completing stories represented.
As it turned out, stories proved to be a fun and easy way for this age group to communicate which adventures were the most motivating. Young people are not usually capable, particularly at this age, to talk too abstractly about themes of adventure and the “story format” overcame this obstacle and led the research team to start developing metaphors with which they could begin to understand the young people’s connection to the brand.
It was at this point that we started hearing the unprompted suggestions to include a “bad guy”. Though kids cannot articulate it, they regularly ask for conflict and obstacles – and will even create the bad guy if one is not in the story! Children found that the addition of a “bad guy” enhanced the “good guy” character as well as added a layer of excitement.
It was through seeing adventure from a child’s perspective that we started to grasp the power of the positioning statement. The focus needed to shift from “discovery and adventure” to “overcoming obstacles, challenges and (of course) the bad guy”.
This methodology had proved invaluable too when working on LazyTown (www.lazytown.com/Default.aspx). Again through storytelling CKC uncovered not only a real lust for adventure, it was in the use of conflict to increase interest in the story and the characters, which really got their young audience fired up. As with Kellogg’s they found a situation where the by-product of the passion for the brand was an increased desire to taste the food, try the products, and get fully immersed in the heart of the adventure as it were. Sportacus and Stephanie become more exciting when having to deal with Robbie Rotten and his shenanigans.
As is often the case, a business challenge needs to be flipped on its head to gain a new perspective. Story completion is a simple yet effective approach, which enabled our research team to work shoulder to shoulder with young kids, developing the brand story together. In this instance the brand team turned the Kellogg’s Froot Loop story into an actionable, deliverable branded product which remained true to the theme the kids had worked on with us. This also triggered an award-winning research approach (www.aqr.org.uk/prsaward/winner2004.shtml) that continues to flourish and expand to this day.
So a final word of thanks then to all the bad guys out there, all the bad characters that give the good guys such great adventures!
Bryan UrbickFounding Director of the Consumer Knowledge Centre.
About the author
Bryan Urbick is a frequent author and lecturer around the world on the subject of kids, families, women, Prime Timers (people aged 55+), product development, innovation and the NPD process. Bryan sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of Young Consumers (Emerald Group Publishing Limited) and is a member of the international Literati Network.
He is one of the founding directors of the Consumer Knowledge Centre and serves as the CEO & Chairman. Prior to setting up the business, Bryan worked in the food industry for over ten years, and prior to that in the banking/financial services industry – both in marketing and product development. He has been working with all ages and segments of consumers, but is particularly known for his years of work with children and mothers, having conducted research in Europe, North America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central America. Bryan’s style of research is unique. He is one of only a handful of researchers who successfully works with large groups of children through to hand picked smaller teams to uncover insights. Over the years Bryan has crafted some of his own methodologies and research tools and often re-written the rule book to understand what motivates and engages consumers of all ages.
For the last 15 years, he has been working to develop consumer research methodologies that innovate the research process and improve product success. Bryan was part of the team that won the ARF David Ogilvy Gold Award 2007 for creative research resulting in a successful advertising campaign. Bryan is also the 2004 winner of the prestigious Prosper Riley-Smith Award (from the international Association of Qualitative Research) for unique and innovative research with young children in the US on brand characters.
As well as numerous articles in trade journals and magazines, Bryan wrote the book, About Kids: Foods and Beverages published by Leatherhead Press and is the Managing Editor of Kids Food Trends, a ten-issue annually newsletter. In 2008/2009, two textbooks were published in which Bryan has contributed chapters: An Integrated Approach to Product Development (published by Taylor & Francis) and Developing Children’s Food Products (Woodhead Publishing). As an interesting aside, under the pen name of B. Conley O’Ryan, wrote the successful and critically acclaimed children’s musical The Magic of Me which enjoyed a national tour to primary schools in the UK, and the play I Love You More produced in a London Fringe theatre, and is currently at work on writing non-fiction articles and a new children’s book as well as a new play for the theatre.