The Psychology of Marketing To Kids As Customers


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Kids are becoming active consumers earlier than ever. A combination of factors – higher allowances, an increased desire for parents to teach children how to manage money, and proliferation of marketing vectors through net accessibility, to name a few – have pushed marketers past the teen market. Preteens and younger kids are now considered viable customers and are worthy of their own marketing push.

What is the psychology behind a successful marketing campaign targeted towards kids?

Communicate With Parents

Even though kids have more spending power than they ever had before, they are still often watched over by their parents. Most marketers are accustomed to how they need to communicate safety of physical products to parents. Toys are labeled with an age bracket, are submitted for specific certifications or awards, or receive promotions from specific personalities. With digital products, however, these strategies are more nebulous.

Kids engage with digital content more heavily than any previous generation. They have grown up with internet access and are often more adept than their parents at manipulating this media vector. Involved parents are concerned about safety and transparency, so showing how a product protects kids is important. Working with bloggers and parenting influencers to promote the safety of a product can be a huge boon.

Give Safe Sharing Opportunities

Many customers of all ages enjoy the chance to express themselves through a brand, whether that be sharing a piece of fan fiction or engaging with other fans. Brands can use interactive products to create a big push for themselves.

A great example of this is Snapchat; custom filters promoting a kids product or a new movie encourage kids to create Snaps and send them to all their friends, boosting awareness of the brand or product.

Be Aware Of Negative Perceptions

Brands do need to be careful as they market to kids. Many products have strict rules and regulations around how items can be marketed to kids. The most well known examples are age ranges on toys with small pieces and the laws around marketing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and alcohol to children. But beyond the legal ramifications of products, many marketers consider the ethical ramifications of their products. If a social media channel makes kids actively less safe online, what should be done?

If parents realize – or even just think – that a platform is unsafe for kids, they will often exercise control to keep it from being used. They will also spread word to their friends and parenting communities. This is why transparency is so important; kids don’t often know what is really safe for them, and parents often don’t really understand how certain modern technologies work.

If parents feel a platform is unsafe, kids aren’t going to be clear about why that’s not true. By getting out in front of confusion with clear statements about safety and transparent operation, companies can eliminate or mitigate many issues.

Use Influencers

Companies have known for decades that marketing to teens by leveraging social status is a great strategy, but they don’t always think of younger kids in the same way. Social marketing platforms have been attracting younger and younger kids, however, and friends are often in constant communication through group texts and chat programs. Kids also love YouTube and Snapchat, platforms that allow them to share pictures and video.

While there aren’t too many kid vloggers, teens and young adults are often found promoting makeup, hair products, and fashion. Kids may also follow gamers on YouTube and may learn about new games from them. By connecting with influencers, marketers can push the social aspect of products and brand cache.

Build Future Customers

One of the biggest reasons that marketers included kids in their prior marketing efforts was the hope of building future customers. A kid might be a decade off from driving a car, but if they think a particular brand of vehicle is cool, they may plan to invest in that make later on. They may also encourage their parents to check out a particular vehicle, especially now that so many family options come with kid focused entertainment in the back seat.

This concept of building customers for the future is still true, and might be even more relevant. A company that creates a kid-friendly tablet, for example, can be building towards the day a kid is looking for an adult – and pricier – version of the same product. By establishing kid, preteen, teen, and adult versions of products, companies can create customers that will last for decades.

Marketing to kids needs to be done responsibly and carefully, with an eye towards how their parents are likely to react to brand efforts. But when done properly, companies may get an incredible return on every dollar they spend.

Margarita Hakobyan
CEO and founder of, an online marketplace of local moving companies and storage facilities. Business women, wife and mother of two with bachelor's degree from the University of Utah with a concentration in International Studies and a Masters Degree also from the University of Utah with a degree in International business.


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