Dr Seuss' famous quote remains relevant today, it's easy to take for granted that young people are decision makers and have their own minds. They're constantly engaged with digital devices, and are often navigating their way across multiple touchpoints. Children are intuiting at a young age how to access various platforms online, including social media and video content, affecting not only their interests, but the changing nature of the way they consume content too. It's become vital for businesses to treat this age group as a separate group in their own right, which presents its own set of challenges. Over the past few weeks UK MPs announced that they are launching an inquiry into the impact of children's use of social media and digital screens, reflecting a wider need by society to better understand the impact of increasing screen usage on young audiences.

We know from our research into children's consumption habits that kids as young as two years old are spending a significant proportion of time accessing online content. Having grown up in a digital world, young people are now pretty savvy, and understand the value exchange of seeing marketing messages in exchange for content. So how can digital marketers best relate and engage with younger audiences - and, crucially, their parents as decision makers?

Identifying types

As with any demographic, children cannot be shoehorned into one homogenous group of consumers, or simply categorised by their age and gender. For marketers, identifying the different personalities and behaviours that exist amongst young people is the first step to ensuring the right audience for a particular product or campaign.

This can be done by segmenting young people into different groups, identifying their differences and similarities and then categorising them. At Giraffe Insights, we conducted research that segments young people into 11 different groups we call 'Youth Squads'. Key pillars within their worlds that the research focused on included how they develop as they get older; the role that family plays; the importance of friendship, their hobbies and their media usage.

Understanding media behaviour

Marketers should be aware of the varying media habits of each 'squad', each with their favourite platforms, devices and genres of content.

TV remains a key source of content for many young people existing alongside their online consumption. The 'Mature Mummy's Girl' squad are very close to their mothers and enjoy similar interests, including their shared TV preferences - whether that be a favourite soap, drama or Saturday night TV show. 'Mischievous Mummy's Boys' love watching cartoons and opt for silly and funny TV programmes to emulate their own personalities and their love of these types of characters.

However, our recent research into Kids and the Screen demonstrated the significant shift towards user-generated content and the role that YouTube plays in young people's repertoire. Naturally, YouTube's endless scope of diverse content can provide hours of entertainment for younger audiences. This would be the aptest environment to target 'Trendy Tubers', youngsters who are YouTube enthusiasts, or even 'Material Mimics', those who are precociously interested in beauty and fashion, and enjoy watching YouTube influencer vloggers such as Zoella or SprinkleOfGlitter.

With more children and young people using and owning handheld devices, they are also avid users of apps, whether that be to play games, listen to music, or access social media. Social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat are key for targeting young girl consumers, such as our 'Sassy Socialites' or 'Material Mimics', girl squads that are predominantly interested in staying connected with friends at all times and following the latest trends.

Tailor to kids

Getting digital marketing right for children and young people can be challenging to say the least. After all, they are still exploring their own interests and there are various factors to consider, from the multiple ways in which they now access content to their parent's level of influence. These 'squads' enable brands to see beyond age and gender, creating a segue into how campaigns should be tailored to better engage and reach their preferred audience.

We know that for younger children in particular, parents act as the primary gatekeeper to the content they access often remaining in the room or sharing the viewing experience, so communication strategies need to attempt to appeal to both parent and child simultaneously. For children, using bright visuals, music they love and characters they can identify with are key creative cues for engagement. However, for parents, it is all about the key information - such as where they can find the product, its play value (ie. if it will remain engaging), and its cost.

Marketers can optimise media strategies through a variety of methods, taking into consideration viewing habits, preferences, and key influences. From a 'Mature Mummy's Girl' who binge watches TV series with her mum, to the 'Trendy Tubers' who are independent thinkers and spend the most time accessing YouTube, marketing strategies can definitely be tailored to optimise engagement and enjoyment in a responsible way. In doing so, brands and marketers will succeed in reaching the target audience for their product, whilst also minimising wastage from marketing budgets.


By Maxine Fox, managing director at Giraffe Insights

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