Opinion | Value Added Tact: The importance of meeting the sensibilities of ‘kids these days’

From Generation Z to Generation Alpha, audiences’ tastes and preferences are ever changing, from awareness of social responsibilities to greater demand for sustainability. Co-founder of Kids Industries, Gary Pope explores the importance of authenticity when meeting today’s youth and their new consumer values

My favourite game when I was a kid was Buckaroo. The tension, chaos and hysterical laughter caused by a few bits of plastic pulled from a cardboard box kept me happy for hours. If only the youth of today was still that easily pleased, product development and marketing teams would be laughing all the way to the bank.  

But they’re not. Far from it. Culturally, societally, we are in a state of flux. So many things are happening that were unthinkable five years ago, all of which are impacting our purchasing decisions. As a result, young people have become increasingly sophisticated consumers, politically savvy, environmentally aware, far more emancipated, and very, very vocal and demanding of the brands they invest time and money in.  

They curate rather than collect. The label in itself is no longer enough. They want to know where, how and with what products have been made. They have an incredible understanding of the supply chain; are the workers treated fairly and paid a living wage, is the factory run on wind power, is it safe?

They are increasingly invested in making purchasing decisions that are driven by value and the impact they will have on the planet, rather than by consumption.  

“Most of all, kids want authenticity; they want to buy from brands that genuinely share their values and are honest and transparent about contributing towards a fairer society.”

Value no longer means cheap, it means quality, longevity, considered and conscious. They understand the importance of sustainability, the circular economy, diversity and humanity. They want to see products  representing all of us, and not just a limited few. Charity shopping and reselling toys and games on eBay are seen as badges of honour, rather than a shameful blot on their social status.  

But most of all, they want authenticity; they want to buy from brands that genuinely share their values and are honest and transparent about contributing towards a fairer society and the future of our planet. What they don’t want, is box tickers.  

And they know some or all of this at a really young age. Even Generation Alpha (2012-2025) is aware. They  feel strongly about consumer issues, they just don’t have the maturity to decode them or the disposable income to directly influence them. Gen Z (1996-2011) has the powerful  combination of a more sophisticated awareness and their own money, so they can choose to spend – or not – on the brands whose credentials are most important to them.  

The way young people relate to media has also changed massively. They are no longer passive consumers; they are active participants. They want to be immersed in interactive, engaging content that adds value to their experiences and fulfills a basic social need. They don’t do one-dimensional.  

When it comes to gaming, this means Roblox and Fortnite – games that double up as social platforms; places where they can meet friends, show off, have a voice and be heard, recognised and rewarded. Socialisation is critical to child/youth development, and this is more important than ever given how much face-to-face contact has been eradicated by the pandemic.  

Unsurprisingly, Roblox was the most popular mobile  game in the US last year, with users averaging 100 minutes play per day, and the company had a first day valuation of  $38.3 billion when it went public. Equally unsurprisingly, the notion of the metaverse (which is being coined by some as the real future of the internet and the next era of social media) is incredibly powerful to our digital natives and the brands hoping to reach them.  

So, two huge things for brands to get right when it comes to R&D and marketing to young people moving forward – both of which I believe will become non-negotiable before long: consciously authentic values and actions, and the integration of social. Nail that, and you’ve got the  equivalent of Buckaroo for the next generation.  

Gary Pope (CEO & Co-Founder, Kids Industries) will be discussing ‘How Priorities are Changing Across Generations of Consumer at Brand & Licensing Innovation Summit, which runs online 9-11 June. Passes are available from https://www.brandlicensinginnovationsummit.com/

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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