In today’s competitive retail environment, brands must consistently remain relevant and engage their consumers. Not an easy task when your target consumer is savvy, easily influenced by trends, and under the age of 14.
Today’s kids (those no longer a toddler and not yet a tween) have become masters in the art of filtering messages, due in large part to the influence of technology. The surplus of readily available global information has made them impulsive decision-makers. They’ve never waited for a dial tone to log on to the Internet or dare I say, remember a time when leather bound encyclopedias and dictionaries dominated.
Raised as equals and encouraged to express their opinions, these influential consumers have a stronger hold on the purchasing power of the household than ever before. In 2013, children accounted for $21.4 billion worth of their own purchasing power.  Considering that Global Industry Analysts, Inc. is estimating the Global Kids’ Food and Beverages Market will reach $89.3 billion this year, the market for kid’s products is only going to expand and brands need to be prepared for the increased competition.
There are a few key strategies consumer packaged goods can employ to garner the increasingly fleeting attention of the youth market while appeasing the interests of the primary purchaser—the parent.
To feed the imaginative world of children, brands can develop characters that are used as part of the brand identity or used independently. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that children prefer cereals that have a cartoon character on their packs. They also prefer the tastes of those cereals—a significant finding for brands looking to introduce healthier products into a kid’s diet. 
YoCrunch Yogurt—a pioneer in separating toppings from yogurt by use of a clear domed cup lid—has created strategic partnerships through the years with brands like Kellogg’s, Oreo, and M&M’s. When YoCrunch wanted to introduce cereal bowls as an extension to their successful product line, they worked closely with Kellogg’s to use the Fruit Loops product, logo, and recognizable icon Toucan Sam as part of the packaging. For kids who had never heard of YoCrunch before, seeing the familiar face of Sam gave them the comfort to try something new.
For ascending brands that are unable to leverage an established brand’s mascot, forging an emotional connection to the child through a new brand mascot will create the long-term positive association with the brand they desire.
Skeeter Nut Free Snacks is founded on the basis of providing great tasting, nut-free snacks that can be enjoyed by all. The public face of the brand is a loveable, wide-eyed squirrel named Skeeter, who also happens to be nut allergic like many of his consumers. Skeeter features prominently on the vibrant blue packaging holding a nut-free placard, further strengthening the brand positioning of safe, no nuts snacks. The back panel is dedicated to his fully developed backstory and a web link directs kids to the Skeeter Snacks website, for kids wanting to learn more about Skeeter and his friends. These comprehensive touch points work to increase the emotional bond between the child and the brand.
Most parents would agree, kids struggle with keeping their hands to themselves. To engage this instinctual need to touch and understand, new kid-friendly products are being developed every day that make eating a sensory experience beyond taste and smell. However, a new product also introduces the challenge of attracting potential consumers. To differentiate against long established products, a distinct packaging structure can create a memorable brand experience and pop at shelf.
FunBites is a colorful line of durable curved blade food cutters that cut kid’s food into bite-sized fun shapes. The physical experience of the product, which engages the logic and creativity in the child, had to be translated into the packaging. Carefully placed windows showcase the cutter and allow for tactile interaction at retail. Colorful characters developed around each food cutter turn the cutters themselves into mouths and ears. The unique and distinctive structure adds variety on shelf.
THE TWO C’s: COLOR and COMMUNICATION
Most kid’s products need to satisfy the primary purchaser to grow sales, but still attract the consumers. A balance must be struck between the parent’s inherent desire for healthier options for their children, and designs that appeal to the child’s restless attention. The best avenue to accomplish this feat is through clear communication of benefits and a boosted, more vibrant color palette.
Black Forest recently relaunched their popular line of gummy products with new packaging. The newly established architecture works to strengthen their healthier brand positioning and brand promises. “Made with Real Fruit Juice,” is distinctly arched across the center of each package, while the other nutritional benefits (“Colors from Natural Sources” and “Gluten and Fat Free”) are called out at the top of each package, further reassuring the parent of the quality ingredients inside. To capture the child’s curiosity and build brand awareness, the Black Forest green equity color was leveraged and a bright engaging new color palette employed. The playful characters on the gummy varieties were refreshed to add energy and double as brand mascots, further engaging the child’s imagination.
[Disclosure: Hughes Design Group designed all packaging used in this article]