This week I visited the annual Toy Fair trade show and Digital Kids Conference hoping to stay current on how the next generation plays. I had my pic snapped with what I thought was a giant vibrating Pac Man (obviously, I’m not current because I was told on Facebook it is a more recent Japanese character). While we all know kids (and their parents) have gone tablet crazy and that gaming rules supreme, especially with tweens, the Toy Fair was still full of actual toys. Stuffed toys, princesses galore, kites, sleds, you know, old school toys. Something about that made me feel good even as I listened to Nickelodeon’s Jane Gould present their latest research on whether kids and/or their parents will pay for apps. As social marketers begin to explore how to use apps to create change, I thought I’d share a few key insights I took from the preso.
Why do kids love apps?
- They are “filler,” i.e. filling gaps or downtime with something to do.
- They are a supplement (to the gaming console, which is still number one, especially with tweens)
- Entertainment is snack size. Take a bite! You can usually finish an app/game in a couple of minutes.
- They are portable!
- They have a short learning curve that provides kids with a sense of mastery (in snack size time)
What social marketers have that works to our advantage is the goal of using apps to change behavior vs. earn money. Nickelodeon basically found it’s really, really hard to get kids or their parents to figure out what’s good enough to pay for, especially since there is so much out there that’s free. We can (and should) keep our apps free. The challenge for non-profits is finding the budget and talent to create an app that adds value, leads to behavior change and most importantly is useful for parents and/or fun for kids to play. It should also be age appropriate – i.e. 3-4 year olds can’t read and prefer to play with recognizable characters or “friends.”
Here are just a few resources for social marketers thinking of using apps, games or virtual worlds to reach kids: