In today's competitive business world, it is rare when a
company gives something away for free, but that's exactly what Insight Strategy
Group, the New York-based research firm, has been doing. Every month, the company
interviews and profiles a different child-branded as "Muse of the Month"-and
generates information that can be used to help develop content or unique ways
to market to kids.
Each Muse interview touches on different areas or aspects of
the child's life, and the group mixes things up in terms of age and gender from
month to month. The interview is sent out as a company email blast, appears on
the company website as a blog and was recently picked up as a monthly column by
The Muse of the Month feature can be helpful to media
buyers, planners and content producers to help them better understand the kids
"The Muse of the Month has been effective because it's
tough for grownups to remember their own childhoods, and even harder to fully
understand the lives of today's kids, who are growing up in a different world
than we experienced," says Sarah Chumsky, VP of Insight Kids. "Many
people get trend reports and basic information on what kids supposedly like today,
but to create media that doesn't feel cookie-cutter, reflects kids' lives and
speaks to their needs, you need to understand the details and all the many
exceptions to the norms."
In addition to offering this snippet of free research each
month, Insight Kids does proprietary research for an assortment of clients.
They include: Nickelodeon, Hasbro, Kellogg's, Crayola, Chorion, Classic Media,
Sprout, CBeebies (BBC), National Geographic, Scholastic, Corus Entertainment,
Converse, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, Stride Rite, Seventh
Generation, AOL, Addicting Games, American Museum of Natural History, MTV,
DreamWorks and Paramount.
Prior to joining Insight in 2005, Chumsky was a kids' media
consultant. She has also served as a head writer and producer at Oxygen
Media, a producer at Nickelodeon/Blue's
Clues and a producer at Noggin.
Chumsky spent some time discussing the Muse program and
offering some insight into learning about kids for marketing and content
What is the Muse of
the Month and how did it come about?
Muse of the Month is a way for us to educate people in the children's product
industry about different aspects of kids' lives and about child development. We
began doing it because we had lots of clients who wanted to be creative and who
were seeking more information to get a better feel of who the kids' audience
is. To market a product successfully to children, you need to take what they
think and how they live into consideration. It began as a monthly email blast
to current and potential clients. We used the Kidscreen email list to send out the interviews and we posted
entries on our own Web blog. Kidscreen
liked it and now they are using it as a monthly column in their magazine.
How does it work?
We choose one child per month that we find through personal connections of
our staff and just talk with them.
We don't go in with any predetermined preconceptions about the child or age group. We start off with a few general questions to the the conversation started and to get the flow going, then simply have discussions with the children about their lives, their interests and whatever comes up. Then we pick out things
that are interesting and would be helpful to marketers and highlight them. In
one instance, we interviewed a child who just moved to a new city and we talked
about how the child adjusted to the new environment and new situation. We've
talked to kids about technology and what interests them. We've found that
preschoolers are already interacting with tablets. The articles we write
always end with some insight into how the children's thoughts can be applicable
to the marketing of various products.
And there's no
charge for the Muse research?
No. We are putting the information on our blog and emailing it out for
free. This information is not brand specific. Most of the work we do for our
clients is to gather information that gives them insight into children's
relationships with their specific brands and how the kids use those brands. But
the information we put out there from our Muse of the Month interviews can also
offer valuable insight and it also creates goodwill for our company and gives
us some additional exposure. All of the members of our Insight
Kids team have a passion for making companies make better products
and offer better services for kids. This type of research can only help.
Marketers can learn about what kids care about, what they do with their time
and how they relate to products and technology, and we hope that marketers stop
stereotyping kids in particular age groups and realize that all kids the same
age are different.
What other types of
research does Insight do?
Insight does about half its research about kids and the other half for a
more general audience, or non-kids. For the kids practice, clients come to us
to help with branding and marketing of their products and have us seek answers
to questions like, "What should our brand stand for? How can a brand differentiate
itself from its competitors?" We help companies track and build their brands
and help them to achieve their marketing goals using our research. We also help
develop products and content. If someone has an idea for a new product line, we
would test it with the children who are the target audience to get their
impressions. It can even be a TV show idea or a completed pilot.
Our staff [excels in] drawing information out of kids in
conversation. We have even gotten insight from two-year-olds who are not yet
speaking. But we work with kids from that age all the way up into the teens.
choice or yes/no questions is relatively easy, but how are you able to put
together research based on general conversations with kids?
We not only phrase the questions so that they can understand them, but we
are also trained to understand their answers and what they mean. We know what
typical responses for each age group would be and can set other thoughts from
How has the
evolution of media platforms impacted what you do in the kids' research area?
Kids today have so many entry points to be introduced to products and
brands. It's not just through media platforms. Kids may be too young to see or
understand a particular movie, but they might not be too young to be introduced
to that movie or those characters through action figure toys. One of our Muses
was a five-year-old boy who was a Star
Wars fanatic. He was too young for the Star
Wars movies but got interested in the brand through action figures that
other kids brought to school. Then he began to ask for Star Wars Wii games and Lego sets. So
it's not only media that can open doors for marketers.
How are marketers
handling all the new platforms and ways to reach kids?
Cross-platform opportunities are seen by many marketers as both exciting
and intimidating. Most do not have expertise in all of the media platforms
available today. They need to find the best ways to reach kids with their
specific brands and they need to prioritize the media they use. Again, not all
seven-year-olds can be reached the same way.
It seems that more
parents today are watching programming with their young kids. Does that change
how a marketer advertises a product?
I wouldn't make the assumption that more parents are watching TV with their
preschool kids today than in past years. The quality of kids programming today
is very good and we've found that parents in the home in many cases are willing
to leave their young children in front the TV to watch a good show while they
do something else in the home if the program is of high quality. As kids age,
up beyond preschool is where parents seem to be watching more programming with
Does a marketer
benefit by gearing a commercial to a younger child?
On average, kids have more influence on a parent and what a parent will buy
for them as they get older. Once a child begins to get their own money through
an allowance or work they can have more of a say. But the parent still always
needs to be in the equation.
Marketers should tread lightly when advertising within games kids are playing, as overt pitches to add a paid upgrade may not sit well with parents.