OPINION28 September 2011

Won't somebody please think of the children!

Unicef and Ipsos Mori published a report recently highlighting the difficulties faced by UK parents in finding time to spend with their children and how, after long hours at work, they try to compensate by buying the latest toys and branded products.

Research is a profession notorious for its time demands and I’m sure many parents reading this would be able to identify with the report’s findings. The anguish – and the guilt-driven purchases that result – are part and parcel of the ‘My Time’ trend.

As consumers are less able to allocate time to their friends and family, they will make compensatory purchases elsewhere. But what opportunities does this open up to marketeers? As phenomena such as widespread smartphone ownership and social media adoption change the ways we can interact, can brands do more to:

  • Facilitate getting together in different ways – can we create new spaces and occasions for parents and children to interact?
  • Ensure that compensatory activity like gift buying is as meaningful and valued by both parties as possible
  • Find ways to ‘buy back time’ for parents – witness recent examples inviting consumers to find better ways to shop for groceries, hire a car or find car insurance

Time pressures and the distancing effect this can create within families aren’t going away. For brands, that may be no bad thing.


1 Comment

10 years ago

Completely agree, Pete. A lot of the work we're doing with kids' and family brands at the moment has to do with exactly this process: understanding how brands can actually help to simplify rather than complexify parents' lives. An important part of this is the need for organisations to recognise that it's not always right to introduce a new brand, sub-brand, product or service simply for the sake of adding a revenue stream. They must balance the expectations and needs of their consumers against their existing offer, deciding whether the new product presents a genuine step forward or just creates more choice for the sake of it. Otherwise, they risk parents moving to competitors who may offer fewer SKUs but with a clearer purpose behind them. Parents trust some brands to look after their interests, while accepting that those brands are fundamentally motivated by profit. A classic example would be LEGO, which is known for its passion for facilitating play in a way that conforms to the values parents want for the children's toys - less violence, little or no sexuality and lots of imagination. Should a brand betray that trust by introducing products that don't fit their perceived values, consumers will react badly. One interesting phenomenon we've seen at The Value Engineers is the advent of products that combine two of the opportunities you mentioned: facilitating new occasions for families to get together, and buying back time. A great example of this is the rise of child-friendly apps and interactive storybooks for the iPad and iPhone. These encourage parents to share their prized technology with their children, enabling them to interact in a way that doesn't require lots of extra play equipment and can take place in small segments of time. Going forward, my feeling is that the family brands that will see most success are the ones that recognise their roles as facilitators (or even custodians) of family time, but also accept the pressures placed on parents - and therefore offer services or products that are specifically designed to work with those pressures.

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