Published In Dawn, Aurora Magazine, April 2006
by Umair Mohsin
Anybody who has ever actively chosen to watch kids shop in a super market will testify to the fact that it’s a fascinating experience. These ‘little angels’ are very much the devil in disguise and quite capable of toppling the mightiest brands in Pakistan. They have their own tactics of getting what they want. Kids are very likely e.g. to slip the product they like into the shopping cart, replace your product with a competitor’s (as countless exchanges of Lux for Safeguard soaps have shown), hand it directly to the cashier, pester either of the parents or the best one – throw a tantrum right there on the spot if they don’t get what they want. The use of such indirect influences termed ‘Pester Power’ combined with their own purchasing power makes them the biggest market in Pakistan and one that is the least understood.
To date there has been no study of the potential of the kid’ s market in Pakistan. However, a rough estimate can be devised. The 0-25 years old market in Pakistan comprises around 64.9% of the 153.96 Million (Source: Economic Survey 2005) people in the country. Slicing the same percentage from the approximately 60 Million people living in the Urban sector and taking out the 16-25 bracket comprising of 8.9 million individuals and the 12-15 bracket comprise of 4.1 Million individuals (Source: AC Nielsen Data) leaves us an estimated 25 Million kids in Pakistan out of which the 3-12 years segment can comprise of anywhere between 15-20 million potential users of all kinds of products ranging from juices, confectionary and even mobile phones.
In terms of direct spending only e.g. the average pocket money for the lower SECs (B,C,D) school going kid is Rs.10 per day. In the upper SEC’s, it can reach as high as Rs. 50 per day. Taking the conservative approach at Rs. 10, gives us a direct spending potential of Rs.150 million per day or an eye popping Rs. 54.750 Billion annually in just the urban sector.
Kolsen’s Slanty & Ding Dong Bubble Gum are two examples of the potential that lies in this segment. Slanty, the largest selling snack brand in Pakistan, sold more than 300 million packs in 2005. The sales of Ding Dong are estimated to be Rs. 2 Billion a year (Note: Hilal wasn’t available for comment).
Meet The New Kids
Almost every aspect of today’s younger generation is different from what we might have experienced in the past. They’re growing up faster, are more connected, are more direct and much more informed. They also have more personal power, more money, influence and attention than any other generation before them. With so much autonomy and decision-making power within the family, it follows that kids are vocal about what they want their parents to buy.
“This is the first generation to have a lifestyle and the segment is growing at a decent percentage. It is also the most global generation the world has ever seen. They’ve been exposed to both local and international trends since birth”, said Asif Iqbal, CEO, Post Amazers.
This is the generation which can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if not via the landline than via an SMS, a chat room or an IM message and there is no doubt that this steady diet of information, available 24 / 7 through a whole variety of channels, is playing a major role in shaping this new generation.
Ahmed Iqbal, Marketing Manager, National Foods said “Generation gaps now appear as closely as 5 years. They can take more information, process faster since they’ve been exposed to more mediums.”
“The kids know about all the content available on channels now and parents have been unable to limit this knowledge. These exposures to so many mediums have made their thinking broader. Kids now are far more intelligent and clever. They cannot be pushed anymore”, said Sabin Talib, BM, Prince Biscuits.
Says Hatim Shaikh, BM, Slanty “The kids of today are more computer and technology savvy and their ability to absorb messages and recall things has increased phenomenally as compared to the previous generation.”
This generation expects replies to SMSes in minutes. If not they get bored and move on to something more engaging. They are also used to things happening instantly and growing up on instant gratification has meant that it is also more demanding.
All this awareness is turning these kids into a NOW generation. They want things to happen here and now. They want to solve their problems now, not tomorrow. They must make the purchase now, win the game now or learn what they want to know now. Thus this is a generation with little, if any, patience. How can you be anything otherwise, if the media presents a world where pop stars are created in 4 weeks and millionaires are made in half an hour.
As with two sides to a story, the media is not wholly to blame for this either. Parents today are willing to compromise to and buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. Guilt plays a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids. The thought of nagging in the little time that the parents have with their children, is enough to open the wallets.
With all these information flows however, there are signs of worry. “The new generation is losing its creativity. Creativity now comes packed in a box. Young people once spent hours outside playing games in parks and friend’s places. They invented games, rules, played cricket, they played as leaders and war generals. No more. Nowadays, kids barely leave their bedrooms. Too few games now ask them to create the environment or the rules of play”, said Faisal Tamana, GM, The Musik. “Increasingly their behaviors, thoughts and attitudes are being created by the entertainment world”.
Marketing To Kids
Kids are the easiest segment to market to. Give or take a little, their interests are similar globally and unlike the adult markets where a thousand variables (and choices) can exist, the kids market on the other hand with few disagreements is a global one. Toys like Barbie, Pokemon, Beyblade or characters like Harry Potter are global trends.
Kids also make the perfect target groups, because they are old enough to have formed clear brand preferences, yet are young enough to be dependent on their parents and thus have the ability to directly influence their parent’s spending. They keep asking their parents over and over for what they want so they have a tremendous say over what gets bought in the household including major household purchases. In some cases of purchases by parents they have such an influence they may be thought of as the primary decision makers. No other generation has ever had as much disposable income as this one.
Kids are VERY MUCH brand conscious
Teens are active lobbyists when it comes to brands. Babies as young as six months of age can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots, brand loyalties can be established as early as age two and by the time children head off to school most can recognize hundreds of brand logos.
Their brands are the symbols for an identity, offering the opportunity to be trendy, cool, rich, rebellious, stylish even sexy and thus are an integral part of the way kids define themselves. It’s the way they express who they are at home, at school even on the net but that doesn’t mean they’ll regurgitate anything. This generation is very skeptical and they have a built in B.S. alarm that goes off quick and fast when they know that the advertiser is lying. They’re very media savvy and it’s getting harder and harder to market to them….their needs change at such a fast pace.
Sabin Talib commented “Mother’s can’t force their kids to eat something anymore if they don’t want to. Especially in confectionary and biscuits, after 6 years of age, the child will make their own choices independently.”
Thus, brands must continue to surprise and innovate in their communication to keep the brands fresh in the minds of kids because once a brand hits a peak, there’s no where to go but down.
Why is it worth it? Brand relationships formed in childhood do last into later years in adulthood, giving you years and years of solid, dependable growth and revenue.
Their Dreams And Desires – How To Reach Their World
“I Can’t Stand Britney Spears. My Friends Hate Her”
Kids want security. Whether boys or girls, kid usually feel very lonely and look for connections and relationships. Therefore a fundamental factor of a kid’s life especially as they reach their teens is peer pressure. They tend to follow the herd rather than their own instincts, thus popularity and fame scores high on their lists. If they aren’t after it for themselves, they’re deeply in love with those who do. This makes them less likely to develop loyalty to a brand unless it also appeals to their friends. But mass appeal does not elicit loyalty in any form. Kids follow their peers and equals. If their identified groups shift brands, then everyone else will follow without remorse.
“Mom, I Want My MTV”
Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, fifth- and sixth-grade boys were about as fashion-conscious as their pets. Come this generation and they scorn any symbols of their immaturity, cultivating a self-image that emphasizes sophistication. They’re very concerned with their “look,” and a growing minority have begun using hair mousse and baggy jeans. This young generation wants cool, hip, and sexy.
“I Want To Be Commander Safeguard When I Grow Up”
Kids want mastery. They love doing things their way and want the same control that they witness in their heroes which incidentally we have a dearth of in Pakistan. Marketing pundits wrongly assume that kids will relate to cricket or singers. They don’t.
“We don’t have local heroes or kids celebrities. There is a big gap. They’re not turned on by cricketers or by singers. That’s basically a teen forte”, said Asif Iqbal.
Kids are desperate for regional / local heroes. They want content to which they can relate themselves with their language, their style, their choice of names, etc. They may watch cartoons like Dexter or Tom & Jerry but they cannot relate to these characters. Local marketers will need to create our own stories specially customized for these kids.
“Ha Ha Ha… that’s funny Mr. Monster Man”
Humor easily reaches across to both boys and girls as does fantasy, providing the fantasy is not too unrealistic. Kids have their own special humor, intrinsically related to their own unique concept of fun. Making your friends laugh also generates acceptability and loyalty.
Fantasy on the other hand expands the imagination. The younger the child, the greater the capacity for fantasy. Kids spend a lot of their time pre-occupied with day dreams which often star themselves as a hero of one sort or another living in a boundary free world. Characters such as Batman, Harry Potter, Spiderman all have taken advantage of this tendency to create very strong brands.
“Whatever they see on TV, they follow. They live in a fantasy world. That’s why we’ve given Prince a new look. He’s now more like a friend for the kids and someone they look up to”, said Talib. “Since confectionary and biscuits are impulsive buys, if they like and associate with the commercial or character, they will go for it.”
“Due to the massive reach and popularity of TV, kids of today are inspired by cartoon characters and super heroes and want to emulate them in their daily lives as well as use products which are linked to these characters”, said Hatim.
A ‘Today’s’ kid’s room will make it increasingly clear that the role of toys too have changed. Where once you would have found traditional toys in a 10 year olds bedroom, now in all likelihood you’ll find gaming consoles, CDs, movies, etc. The only toys that kids know of now are those linked to branded shows, ones like Pokemon or Commander Safeguard.
The Answers To Breaking Into The Rs. 55 Billion Market
“Not That Again”
Slanty was the first of its kind snack, Squeezy is the first of its kind of packaging. Even the Squeezy ad was ‘different’. Thus to reach this segment, innovation is very important.
“It’s Good. I Saw It On TV”
The life of most kids esp. urban ones is of routine including school, study, madrassah. By 5pm, escape is their deepest desire. In those two hours anything which provides them entertainment is undertaken or watched. Thus television plays a central role in their lives. They absorb more details and faster than adults do and contrary to conventional wisdom they genuinely love good ads and talk about them in their schools, at play, etc. They actually expect ads to take them to a different place and show them things they aspire to see and become. Entertainment, humor, light action and friendship are very important to these segments and they’re attracted to them.
“They’re less involved with publications than one might believe. It’s another form of education and kids already have enough of it. That’s why TV viewership is definitely growing in this segment with channels like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network leading the way”, said Asif Iqbal.
Therefore the answer lies in Experience and Involvement. To build a deeper relationship, interaction is the key. An engaging and involving experience in which the brand plays the lead role is the key to building a successful relationship with this segment.
“The only reason behind the success of Commander Safeguard was that no one did something like this before. It was the first of its kind animated series and most of all it was in Urdu. Pakistani kids had never been exposed to anything like it before”, said Asif Iqbal.
Asif Javed, ABM on Squeezy said ‘The prime factor is fun. It is the platform you can easily target. Cartoon characters especially involve the kids”
Why characters? Firstly, you don’t have uncontroversial celebrities in Pakistan. Secondly, with us being an emotive nation, we hate and love in a sine wave.
“The day Inzi scores a duck we hate him and the next day when he wins the matches we love him. Same is the case with singers. There are over 500 groups in Pakistan and there is none who have ever composed anything for this segment. There is no poetry, rhymes, or famous songs. Comics again are in English and mainly restricted to ‘Archie’. There is no belongingness in any of this.” said Asif Iqbal.
Thus if characters are done well, in accordance with brand values, it has a great chance that the brand will shine through, since there is not much competition in the mascot area. Characters also represent your brand, are ideal role models and most of all you own something that is totally yours forever. These characters will never die and never age. Celebrities after 5 years would probably not be attractive enough to be use as brand ambassadors. Characters live forever.
“Your desired positioning is best driven through a character. Your brand values are depicted easily. Squeezy is Top of Mind right now and the sales targets are well on their way to being achieved. Kids have actually pestered parents to get them the product”, said Asif Javed.
“Music is about who I am”
Music separates and unites various groups and a clear indicator of brand preference. Brand preferences often correlate with musical tastes.
“Music does more than simply create emotions. It creates trends. When kids like a song, they also focus on the artist who’s performing. Thus, you’d have people following the artist’s looks, behavior, speech, dancing style, attitude as well as their opinions and recommendations. This is a whole new ball game.” said Faisal Tamana, GM, The Musik.
“Mom, You’ll Never Guess What Happened At School Today?”
Campus Marketing programs are also increasingly becoming the best way to reach this segment. Last year LU alone targeted 70,000 kids and 21 top schools. Sponsorships especially are a cost-effective way of getting your message across to this segment and involve them. The kids get a better event (e.g. School Mela) and the advertisers benefit through sampling and presence.
“What You’ve Never Played CounterStrike”
Internet and Gaming too are a fast growing area but neither will be a hit without specific programming of their own. The best option right to exploit these new media is through TV and branded entertainment.
Dealing with kids is dealing with your future in all manners & forms, even to the point where you have the power to shape the upcoming world. That is why marketers must follow ethical guidelines and practices when marketing to these segments, as these little people are special. Dishonesty in advertising, producing low quality products just to make the sales this quarter will result in a future generation impaired in some form. Remember, kids are not as cynical as adults. They trust… a LOT! That is why care must be taken and once you have the opportunity to work with them, keep your word and enjoy the company of fun filled, exciting people for years and years.