A few years back, I attended a presentation by a well-known branding consultancy.
The topic was promoting brands to children, a tactic that I am very much against.
As I sat in the lounge listening to the various strategies and techniques being discussed by fellow attendees, I started to consider how this vast section of the population is being targeted in a manner that could easily be viewed as aggressive.
Brands have to make themselves heard to exist, and those who shout loudest often succeed, but somehow, it made me uncomfortable. The image of large corporations yelling their messages at our kids isn’t a pretty one. I pondered on the branding of my childhood and wondered if brands back then behaved differently. The available avenues, pre-internet and satellite television, were limited and more expensive than today, but they seemed to survive.
Did brands target kids just as much as today, or was it as I remembered and happily logo free? I decided to investigate by looking at my family photo album from 1979. As I flipped through to Christmas day, there resplendent in my Spiderman pyjamas sat I with a massive grin on my face surrounded by boxes of Airfix models, Meccano kits, Lego sets and Action Man vehicles. So the brands were indeed there, and I was most definitely exposed to them, but why didn’t I remember that level of exposure?
The Power of Packaging
I met up with a friend, Jason, who had also attended the presentation and shared my concerns about the aggressive nature of branding to children. I told him of my discovery, and he too was intrigued. After a short discussion, we decided to look back at the marketing of Airfix in 1979.
Airfix didn’t advertise on television, and they rarely advertised widely in magazines or newspapers. Instead, the company promoted their brand by making their products capture their customers’ imagination in an instance. It all comes down to their packaging. The artwork that adorned the boxes that Airfix supplied their models kits in was a combination of fine art and clever marketing.
The artwork captures amazing, almost cinematic, scenes of combat and adventure, which the model builder could recreate in model form. This sense of adventure was key to their marketing success because when the boxes were placed in the model shop window, not one little boy (or big boy) would pass by without stopping to take in this week’s epic battles.
This technique of capturing the imagination was used in many of my childhood brands and with great success. Airfix still employs the approach today, albeit backed up by a web and print presence, and they are still selling well to children and adults alike.
The Importance of Capturing Imagination
Perhaps, brands of today should look towards capturing imagination rather than shouting at kids and bombarding them with campaign after campaign. Isn’t it better to develop a brand that stays with a customer from childhood through to adulthood without intruding on their lives in such a brash and almost aggressive manner? I, like many others, think so.
It’s essential to recognise the power of packaging and the influence it has on children. By creating an inviting, imaginative, and interactive experience, children can enjoy the brand and feel invested in it. This type of marketing can create a lasting impression on a child’s mind and translate into an adult’s buying behavior.
A mindful approach
Brands have a responsibility towards children and should be mindful of the messaging they put out there. Capturing imagination rather than pushing products can create a more positive and long-lasting relationship between the brand and the individual.
These are just a few thoughts, and if you have anything to add, please get in touch.