'If you want to engage kids you have to think like one'

One of my favourite quotes on children is by Picasso. He says, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after he grows up." He wasn’t far from the truth. Researchers at a North Dakota State University who studied adult creativity discovered that the more an adult thinks like a child, the more imaginative he or she becomes. This particularly holds true when creating kid-centric experiences.


Creating content for today’s kids is not that simple because children themselves are not that simple. Their exposure to tech and world trends is in adult portions and they keep pace with its rapid change. They’re not the docile darlings we used to be when we were their age. Kids question, debate, challenge everything that comes their way. They have evolved from silent spectators to important influencers and consumers, making significant decisions even in adult categories such as electronics, automobiles and family holidays.  

How do you engage such a fastidious, fast evolving audience? By being a part of them.

An outside-in approach

In the early days, creating content for children was simple. We gathered around and brainstormed on what we thought would excite kids, basis our own experiences and the kind of international entertainment that was popular in the world. When we launched Sony YAY!, we decided to take an outside-in approach and create content that was, in a way, designed by kids themselves. We shed our adult lenses and beliefs, looked at entertainment from a child’s perspective and then crafted content around this.

We even tweaked the research methodology, trading yawn-long questionnaires for picture cards and visual/pictorial questions to understand their viewing patterns. Unlike adults, kids have no filters, so their responses are honest and spontaneous. The result was indigenous programming based on the respondents’ insights. So, we created characters like Zordaar, Popat and Guru instead of a Zach, Penny or Gerry. These were names, stories, situations, values and a language that the kids in our country could relate to. Indian home-grown content resonated with them.  

In other words, we’re giving them what they want. 

Stay relevant, stay curious

Having said that, children’s tastes and preferences are changing at a pace that does not always allow the luxury of time for research. Their world is about instant gratification. Kids are inherently curious creatures and their expectations from the adults in their world are changing. So also, are their expectations from content. To stay relevant, you must stay curious. Today, most brands are turning to kids’ content to understand what makes them tick. For marketers and advertisers, this offers a good opportunity to build in relevance to their brands. 

Make your content walk the talk

Children don’t look for characters. They look for friends. And if these friends could step out of the screen and meet them in the real world, it only validates their experience. If you want to grab eyeballs and loyalty, make sure the experiences you offer permeate the child’s world at every level. Another way to do this could be by creating more product extensions and activations. 

Yes, all this is easier said than done. But honestly, don’t most of us yearn to shake off our adult avatar and wish for the freedom to be who we are. By thinking like a child, you won’t be too far from that. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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