If you're in the business of marketing or developing products and programs for kids, "What Kids Buy and Why" belongs in your office. How can you create outstanding products and programs that will win in the marketplace and in the hearts of kids and parents? Dan S. Acuff and Robert H. Reiher have invented a development and marketing process called Youth Market Systems that puts the needs, abilities, and interests of kids first. This system makes sure you won't miss the mark whether you're trying to reach young children or teens, boys or girls, or whether you're selling toys, sports equipment, snacks, school supplies, or software. Based on the latest child development research, "What Kids Buy and Why" is chock-full of provocative information about the cognitive, emotional, and social needs of each age group. This book tells you among other things-- why 3-through-7-year-olds love things that transform, why 8-through-12-year-olds love to collect stuff, how the play patterns of boys and girls differ, and why kids of all ages love slapstick. "What Kids Buy and Why" is the result of Acuff and Reiher's almost twenty years of consulting with high-profile clients including Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Microsoft, Nestle, Tyco, Disney, Pepsi, Warner Brothers, LucasFilm, Amblin/Spielberg, Mattel, Hasbro, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Quaker Oats, General Mills, Broderbund, Bandai, Sega, ABC, CBS, I-HOP, Domino's, Hardee's, and Kellogg's. Special features include: an innovative matrix for speedy, accurate product analysis and program development a clear, step-by-step process for making decisions that increase your product's appeal to kids tools and techniques for creating characters that kids love Here is the complete one-stop tool for understanding what children of all ages want to buy.
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Dan S. Acuff, PH.D., is President of Youth Market System Consulting and, along with Dr. Robert H. Reiher, is among the world's leading specialists on youth-related products and programs. He has served as a consultant to more than fifty major kid-targeting corporations. Dr. Acuff lives and works in Glendale, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A WINNING FORMULA
What do Barbie®, Garfield, Hi-Ho! Cherry-O, He-Man, See-N-Say, Tasmanian Devil, Cabbage Patch Kids, SpaghettiOs, Power Rangers, Animaniacs, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Hot Wheels cars, Mario Brothers, UNO, Winnie the Pooh, Carmen Sandiego, Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man, Colorforms, LEGO, GIJoe, Home Alone, X-Men, Pound Puppies, Jurassic Park, Jim Carrey, Pop Tarts, Math Blaster, Reader Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, M&M's candies, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Nike shoes, the Big Mac, Sonic the Hedgehog, Froot Loops, Fruit Roll-Ups, E.T., Batman, The Lion King, the Frisbee, Gak, Hercules, the Tickle Me Elmo doll, and the Little Caesar's pizza commercials have in common?
They are winners with kids.
Many of them are megawinners. Barbie® alone consistently accounts for over $1 billion in gross annual revenues for Mattel Incorporated.
For every winner there are scores of losers and underachievers -- products and programs that either outright fail or do not live up to their projected expectations in the marketplace. In some industries, the success rate of new product and program introductions is as low as 20 percent. What is it about this winning 20 percent? What do winning products and programs have in common'? Is there a "winning formula" that will guarantee success?
No. As in life itself, there are no guarantees.
There is, however, an approach to product and program development and marketing that will maximize opportunity for success. If a 20 percent success rate can be elevated to a 30 percent success rate, or to 40 percent, it would have a seismic impact on a company's bottom-line profits. What is that approach? It is a thorough and integrated approach to product and program development that has knowing the targeted consumer at the core -- knowing his/her brain development, needs, motivations, and wants, and the way he/she perceives the world. We call this approach Youth Market Systems, because over the past fifteen years of consulting on winning products and programs such as Barbie, He-Man, the Cabbage Patch Kids, Winnie the Pooh, Reader Rabbit, and Chuck E. Cheese's, we have been able to systematize what we have learned "in the trenches" with companies targeting kids. Most central to this systematic approach is a deep and profound understanding of the underlying abilities, motivations, needs, and behaviors of the young target. Providing a deep and clear understanding of this young consumer is the core emphasis of this book. If there ever were to be a winning formula for success for the youth marketplace, it would be "Know Thy Kid!"
THE PRODUCT LEVERAGE MATRIX
Winning kid-targeted products or programs such as Trix cereal, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the UNO card game have what might be termed "leverage" with kids. Leverage essentially translates as "power" -- that is, the character, product, or program not only catches the attention of the targeted child consumer but meets his needs at a substantial level. It's critical to note that what provides this power with each product or program differs substantially. The Product Leverage Matrix illustrated below is a fundamental tool for getting at where the power is (or isn't) within a given product or program, and is a comprehensive model for either the analysis of an existing product or program or the development of a new one. The Product Leverage Matrix, which follows, is so fundamental to successful product and program development that it is used as a working tool repeatedly throughout this book.
This Product Leverage Matrix represents an integration of and a condensation of years of research and practical application. This tool helps us see the big picture and keeps in front of us what we need to know and to ask in order to integrate all aspects of a product or program. The variables that appear on the Product Leverage Matrix are detailed as follows:
MEDIUM/PRODUCTS: What is the medium, format, or product category? For example, is it a book, a video game, a TV show, a fast-food outlet, a toy? Are we dealing with product packaging? Is our focus on a spokescharacter such as Tony the Tiger?
Examples: Star Wars is a movie, a toy line, a book series, and a license for clothing, video games, foods, and fast foods among others, whereas Frisbees are primarily toys or sports equipment.
CONCEPT: What is the core idea of the product or program'?
Example: The Cabbage Patch Kids concept was extremely successful in utilizing the core idea, or concept, of adopting orphans. Pound Puppies came along a short time later and also capitalized on this powerful theme.
P.O.V.: What is the product or program's psychological and/or philosophical orientation, or P.O.V. (point of view)? Is it conservative, for example? Antisocial? What is its message, if any? What impact might any of this have on the company's image?
Example: The Ren & Stimpy Show and some MTV cartoons have a definitely "edgy" P.O.V., with many references to snot and boogers and other gross anatomical objects and events. A company considering using them under license would most certainly want to take this potentially controversial P.O.V. into account. Even though a relatively straightforward product such as a cheese snack targeted to kids may not appear to have a P.O.V., it does: it's straightforward.
CONTENT: What is the Verbal or Visual content of the product or program? This is really a way of breaking out the central concept into its verbal and visual manifestations.
Examples: Sonic the Hedgehog has a visual "look" and an attitude/ style that is both cute in his cartoony-little-animal appearance and at the same time is visually displayed as having an aggressive attitude. Sonic's appealing Visual content, therefore, has contributed greatly to his success. The Winnie the Pooh characters -- Winnie himself, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore -- all have unique voices. This Verbal-content aspect of Winnie the Pooh has been an integral part of its success.
On a product's package, e.g., McDonald's Happy Meal, there is typically both Visual content, such as graphics and drawings of Ronald McDonald and his gang, and Verbal content -- the words that appear there.
CONTEXT: The context is the geographical setting and time period, as well as the social ambience, i.e., what is going on in the social environment that surrounds the product or program? Also, what competitive products or programs exist? That is, what is the competing Context or environment?
Examples: The world or Context of Barbie® is that of today's teenager and post-teenager in America. This realistic, activity/fun-and social-based context is integral to how young girls relate to her and identify with her. The Cabbage Patch Kids were born and raised in a cabbage patch. This extremely unusual and creative Context contributed greatly to their Point of Difference and set them apart from competing concepts. (Actually, the idea of the cabbage patch as a birthplace comes from European folklore -- just as "the Stork" does.)
Context also refers to the time period in which the Concept takes place. It may be an Old West theme, for example, which takes place in the past, or a present-day sitcom, or a Star Wars future context. It may be also be a combination, e.g., the present/past-based Jurassic Park.
PROCESS: In essence, Process refers to the product/user interface. How does the product or program work? How does it involve the child? Is it fast or slow-paced? Does it use special effects? Music? Is it interactive? Does the consumer read it'? Watch it? Play with it? In what way?
Examples: Different candies and kid-targeted foods can employ different processes. M&M's candies are unique in their smallness and design such that they are a colorful and unique eating experience for kids. Pez candies involve the unique process of candy dispensing. DunkAroos involve the process of dipping a cookie-like snack into a frosting-like substance. Innovative processes are fundamental to the success of new video games. Sonic the Hedgehog's speed was a key process factor that provided something new and different for video game-playing kids. The movie Star Wars introduced a variety of innovative film processes, including breakthrough sound and visual effects. If a product or program developer can provide their target with some unique and rewarding new Process, it may very well become a major success factor.
CHARACTER(S)/PERSONALITY: What fantasy-based or reality-based characters (if any) appear in or are used with the product or program? What are their archetypes? How does the targeted consumer identify with the characters? What are the dynamics and relationships between the characters?
Examples: Given that kids and characters seem to be inseparably joined at the hip, examples of characters that contribute toward a product or program's success abound: the Trix rabbit, Batman, Barbie®, Mickey Mouse, the Animaniacs characters, Barney & Friends, etc., etc. -- at least a hundred characters could be named. Among the most successful characters of all time are Bugs Bunny and Garfield. These characters also have a very broad range of appeal across many age segments -- even for adults -- because of their unique "looks," personalities, and behaviors. It's no accident that each of these characters has a "dark side" to it, e.g., Bugs Bunny with his acerbic wit, craftiness, and sarcasm, and Garfield with his aggressive abusiveness, indolence, and other self-serving traits. You'll find an in-depth look at kids and characters in Chapter 10.
ATTITUDE/STYLE: What is the product or program's Style and/or Attitude? For example, is it old-fashioned, futuristic, modern, country? Where graphics are concerned, are they plain? Abstract? Straightforward? Funky? Cool? What impact might this Attitude/Style have on the company's image?
Examples: Nike shoes and other apparel have exemplified innovative graphic design and style -- to the point where the Nike logo alone carries a tremendous power of appeal. X-Men comics and action figures always carry a high-action, aggressive, colorful, in-motion Attitude/Style that appeals strongly to their male targets.
TOP OF MATRIX
There are other product-development, product-maximization, and marketing-related variables that appear at the top of the Product Leverage Matrix; these are important to take into consideration as well.
ESSENCE: This is an exercise that has proven very useful in the development and marketing stages of a product or program. Essence is the core idea of the product or program, and the exercise is to boil the concept down to as few words as possible. Getting at the core essence of a product or program assists greatly in maintaining focus on its key attributes throughout the product-development and marketing cycle.
Examples: Bugs Bunny = Clever cartoon rabbit
Kellogg's Pop Tarts = Fruit-flavored toaster pastries
POINT OF DIFFERENCE: What's different or unique about your product or program in relationship to competitive products or programs already in the marketplace? Without a potent or meaningful "point of difference" your product will not separate itself sufficiently. Also, it's very important to consider: Is your point of difference a point of difference that really makes a difference? In other words, is it powerful in the perception of your targeted consumer'? So what if your gizmo is bigger and greener than the competition's? Is this difference really impactful?
Example: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? separated itself from competitive learning-software games in several ways:
a. A female yet dark (villainess/criminal) central Character
b. The Content mix of linking learning (geography) with a fun game
c. The unique Process of how the game is played, searching the world for Carmen Sandiego
ASSUMED LEVERAGE VS. ACTUAL LEVERAGE: Typically in the product-development cycle, there are some assumptions made about what the Leverage or power of a concept is. We refer to these assumptions as the Assumed Leverage.
Example: If a new competitor to the Gatorade/Powerade category -- let's call it Enerjuice -- is being developed with teens as the primary target, a set of assumptions might include:
a. Teens want more energy.
b. Teens identify with hero athletes.
c. Teens want great taste.
d. Teens will like the new product name: Enerjuice.
Assumptions are also made regarding the hierarchy, or relative power of each of these assumptions in relation to one another.
What's important to note here is that more often than not these assumptions are left unexamined as to veracity and strength. It's an important practice to check assumptions: check what the leverage actually is, and its relative power versus what has been assumed. More often than not, adults make erroneous assumptions about what kids perceive to be important and powerful because adults are looking at their product or program through adult eyes. It is critical to get at the actual leverage rather than the assumed leverage. With the above hypothetical Enerjuice example in mind, adults may be surprised when testing directly with kids' focus groups reveals that the new product's blue color is its most powerful point of leverage and that the majority of kids tested dislike the new name.
Direct kid-and-parent testing is fundamental to making sure that what is being assumed as having "leverage" or being powerful actually is. At Youth Market Systems (YMS) Consulting we have designed what we call "Subject Testing," which is a more experimental design approach: we study the concept to be tested first via the YMS systems models, then come up with hypotheses about how kids or parents are going to respond, then test to confirm or refute these hypotheses.
PROMISE: This Promise variable assists us in getting at the actual power or impact that a product or program has. The question is straightforward: What does the product promise the consumer/user? What key benefits does it provide? And how impactful and important are those benefits to the purchaser/consumer?
Example: If I am a snack-food company and I am considering using Jim Carrey's Mask character under license on my product line, what does this Mask character promise the consumer'? Possible responses: Outrageous fun, a weird visual "look," bizarre behavior that involves the consumer. At a deeper, more psychological level, one might say that Jim Carrey's Mask character allows the unexpressed "dark side" of consumers to find vicarious expression. Often it is such "looking beneath the surface" of what is attracting kid consumers that will reveal strong keys to what a product, program, or character is promising.
COMPETITION: It is very important to know what already exists in the...
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