Wednesday 21 March 2018

Friday Five: Marketing to Young Consumers – Why It Matters

Today’s youth, commonly referred to as the iGeneration, represents a unique generation of consumers. What makes them special is that they will likely never know what it means to be “unreachable” and wield a more significant amount of influence over their parents than generations past. Roughly half of the iGeneration go online several times a day, 75 percent own a cellphone and they watch approximately 24 hours of TV per month. Based on how much content they consume through various avenues and their power as influencers, these young consumers are a highly accessible and sought after consumer.

Here are five things to watch out for if you are targeting a youth audience (under 18 years old):

1. Know Your Stuff When it Comes to COPPA and TRUSTe Compliance.

COPPA guidelines should serve as framework for any kid-focused promotion or campaign to ensure that it’s legally acceptable and protects the privacy of participating children. Another factor to consider is whether your digital properties are TRUSTe compliant. If using any TRUSTe compliant digital properties, you will need to work with a representative from the company’s Compliance team to make sure its privacy and safety standards are met as well. Doing the upfront work to make sure you are COPPA and TRUSTe compliant will make your company’s legal team extremely happy and ensure you are protecting the privacy of the children involved.

2. Don’t Collect Children’s Personal Information Online or Work With Partners or Businesses That Do.

If you are focused on kids under the age of 18, it is not advisable to collect any information other than what’s reasonably necessary for a child to participate. ”Personal information” is typically defined as full name, home address, email address, date of birth, telephone number or any other information that allows someone to identify or contact the child. The information you collect will dictate the stringency of the guidelines that you, and any third-party vendors you are working with, need to meet. Furthermore, parental consent will be needed regardless if a child is under or over the age of 13, and there is significant legal liability tied to the company’s brand in the event that children’s’ identities are made vulnerable.

3. ”Going Social” Gets Tricky

The most popular online destinations (e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, etc.) do not allow children under the age of 13 to register with their sites, but this doesn’t prevent them from joining anyway. Roughly 7.5 million users on Facebook are kids 13 and under who have registered with incorrect birth dates so they can gain access to the site. Technically the onus falls on the technology social sites use to verify the child’s age, the child to be honest when registering and parents to be aware of the social sites on which their child has registered.. Huge gray area, right? Yes, there is some wiggle room here, but from a legal and COPPA compliance standpoint it’s not recommended to encourage kids to visit social sites to engage with your brand. If you want to incorporate a social element check out kid-focused networks (e.g. Club Penguin, Togetherville, What’s What) and see if they fit your needs.

4. Don’t Forget the Parent Audience

Regardless of their level of involvement, it’s important not to ignore the parents who are keeping track of what their kids are doing online. Think through the messaging that will be sent to them and if it’s appropriate to engage them any further. Even if they will just receive participation notifications, be sure to clearly explain the child’s engagement with the brand and any pertinent information that will make the parent comfortable with his or her child’s participation.

5. Be Wary of Offering Shiny Things

Today’s youth are likely to engage with your brand if you can offer a fun game for them to play or a prize. Offering prizes will drum up excitement, but remember you must follow COPPA guidelines to execute a giveaway. Steps of execution that will need to be thought through include where to host the giveaway, defining who is eligible to participate and prize fulfillment. If the giveaway is open to kids under the age of 13, Facebook is out as a hosting option due to its terms of service, and a parent must be involved to approve of his or her child’s participation and provide any personal information needed for fulfillment, regardless of where you are hosting the program. Consider the cost of execution and potential COPPA compliance hurdles before committing to a giveaway.

There are more logistics to work through when speaking to young consumers, but tapping into this burgeoning group of tastemakers and influencers can be invaluable to a brand.

Do you work with a brand that wants to reach out to young consumers? If so, what experience have you had working in this market segment?

Image Credit: James F Clay

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