More and more food companies are creating kid-centric mobile apps and online games. Some are quite creative and fun (we love research!). Some are also effective marketing tools. The best of them are both. Unfortunately for some brands, some are neither.
It’s a new world of marketing food to kids, with many exciting opportunities, but there are dangers lurking for food brands.
In a recent report, the FTC found that overall spending on food marketed to children fell nearly 20% between 2006 and 2009. But, during that same time frame, online marketing to children increased by 50%. Data clearly shows that the $1.8 billion spent on food marketing in 2009 shifted away from expensive television ads to media where children are spending more and more time – the Internet.
But unlike TV, which has rules and standards regarding advertising to kids, the Internet is still somewhat unregulated, except by a company and its marketer’s decisions about effectiveness, brand appropriateness, and good taste. It makes for a complicated set of choices.
The tactics being used, like embedding food advertisements into interactive games reaches children who are unaware they are being targeted. In fact, studies showed that children did not recognize online advertising, especially when hidden within a game, as clearly as they recognized television advertisements.
We get the benefit of “pester power.” And we understand that lifelong brand loyalty is the holy grail of marketers. So starting to build that loyalty at an early age is a canny strategy. But we also understand that damage to a brand can be done with a marketing strategy or execution that undermines who you are as a company.
In the world of online games and mobile apps created by food companies, there’s a growing list of the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you’re a brand that benefits from connecting to kids, you might want to consider creating a mobile app or online game. But be sure it’s brand-appropriate, age appropriate and in great taste.