Branding (not) for kids?
Designing for kids sounds like a piece of cake. Children are not demanding and the whole thing in general is seemingly easy and frictionless. Why seemingly? Because until kids get older, it’s the parents who are in charge of their finances and have the biggest say in how a brand is perceived. Over the years the child becomes more and more independent and its role as a customer grows proportionally. 3- and 4-year-old children can influence their parents’ purchase decisions. They pick things that they’re well familiar with – cartoon characters and products advertised on TV and on the internet. Here are some of the best practices that should be kept in mind when starting a kids brand.
When designing any brand identity, research is the first indispensable step. In case of kids brands its role is even more important as we ought to get to know everything not only about the business itself, but first and foremost about our big and small clients: their habits, likings, and personal preferences. You can divide the target group into two personas (child and its parent) and consider their actual needs and problems. Try to learn as much as you can about your competition – you’ll know what ideas and directions should be avoided.
Cool but serious
The balance between what children and their parents like is crucial to success of any brand offering kids products. The first piece of information you must obtain is the age of children who will use a product or service. Many things depend on it. The rule is quite simple – the older the kids, the more conscious and independent they are. 4- and 5-year-olds show interest in their appearance (important for clothing brands), accessories (important for gadget brands), and managing everyday activities, like packing groceries. This mainly concerns girls but not exclusively. Calm, toned-down colors and minimalist design probably won’t draw attention of a restless 7-year-old boy who watches TV shows about superheroes wearing gunned armors. It also won’t appeal to a 6-year-old girls whose friends go to school dressed like princesses.
Try to learn as much as you can about your competition – you’ll know what ideas and directions should be avoided.
But does that mean that we must design key visual based on striking colors and lacking taste? Not really. Actually… definitely not. We must remember that it is the parents who pay for clothes and toys, that it is them who pick products when the children are absent (which is usually the case), and finally that parents have the final say about whether a products will used at all or not. Children are just users so our branding efforts should be mainly targeted at their parents.
Let go of trends
Puzzles, building bricks, storks, ducks, strollers, and balloons – all of that can be easily associated with a kids brand but is also extremely… boring. Such is usually the style copied by hundreds and hundreds of kids brands from all around the world. Currently the market is oversaturated with motley, dated products that don’t treat children seriously – more like a sweet decoration or mannequin.
This is something that we’d decided to go against while designing the identity for Mali Ludzie (Small Adults), a children clothing store in Poland. We based it on a series of multiple kids faces, each and every one of them showing different emotions and style. However unique, they all belong to one group. We presented children as Small Adults, with respect and seriousness that they deserve.
Language of communication should adjusted to the children’s age. If you’re launching a baby products brand, we can safely assume that we should direct our communication at their parents. Things are slightly different for companies that make products for older children (particularly for kids who are 7 or older and can read). In their case brands should bet on direct communication, simple language, and cool text effects.
Engage the children
One of the coolest ideas is to invite children to add personal touch to the brand’s printed materials. On of the nicest examples is the identity for the World Children’s Festival where the kids can fill in the gaps with words and drawings.
Or, like Limo Kids did with their shopping bag, you can put together some simple illustrations that can be colorized and scribbled over.
One thing is sure – kids love being a part of creating something new. Everything simple is deemed to make them bored while engaging activities may help a brand get noticed and remembered. It’s usually the parents who don’t care – you can’t expect grown-ups to grab their crayons and start drawing characters on cereal boxes. But children would definitely love it. A touch of creativity can stimulate even the most vacant pre-schooler.
Don’t be too original
There are some rules and good practices that shouldn’t be broken because they simply work. If you’re a heavy metal fan and want to use skulls and demons as the key visual for a kids brand, think twice. As long as you haven’t found a rock-solid niche on the market, it’s likely that you won’t do you client a favour and his products simply won’t sell. The same goes for assigning colors to genders (for example blue for boys and pink for girls). Sometimes it is good to put personal preferences and attitudes aside and focus on what can actually help meet business goals.
One final piece of advice – if you want to get a really good feeling about a brand’s atmosphere and style, get in character, and get to know customers through and though – it’s good to have children or at least be around them. Child’s mind can teach us many things – graphic and branding are just the beginning.