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Play: There’s an app for that

pacman

Digital VP Anastasia Goodstein at the Toy Fair

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:

360 Kid
No Crusts Interactive
PlayScience (research!)
Sandbox Summit (conference!)

Anastasia Goodstein
Written by Anastasia Goodstein

Anastasia serves as Vice President of the Advertising Council’s Digital group where she manages the team in charge of digital and social strategy for all Ad Council campaigns as well as AdCouncil.org. Prior to joining the Ad Council, she lead the product development and marketing for the Inspire USA Foundation’s primary service, ReachOut.com, a digital space for teens struggling with depression or other mental health issues. She has worked in media for the past 15+ years and helped launch youth oriented web and television properties for brands like Oxygen, AOL and Current TV before founding the influential youth marketing site Ypulse.com. Anastasia was one of the first graduates of the Medill School of Journalism's new media program at Northwestern University, where she earned an MSJ in 1999. Her first book about teens and technology called Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online was published by St. Martin's Press. She lives in the Greater New York City area with her husband and daughter. Find her on Google+ Twitter

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1 Comment

  1. Scott Traylor, 360KID · February 19, 2013

    Thanks Anastasia! For those that might be interested in hearing Jane Gould’s presentation I uploaded a copy to my YouTube channel. http://youtu.be/qd4X17No8OM. If anyone is interested in my closing panel on tech toy trends to look for in 2013, also from Digital Kids, you can view it here: http://youtu.be/kMuxNbA8NTE

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