Frozen’s Princess Revolution

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 @ 10:42 AM

Disney's Frozen was recently released on DVD/Blu-ray and quickly became one of the bestselling video releases in the last decade.  It's one of the biggest hits of 2013 (and an Oscar winner to boot), and one of the most popular kid and family movies in awhile.  Some have called it the beginning of a new Disney renaissance. 

From the very beginning, Frozen was a different kind of Disney fairy talFrozene.  The earliest trailer for the film showed only the goofy snowman, Olaf getting stuck on an icy pond.  The 30-second clip was funny and entertaining, but gave no hints that the film was actually about two sisters.  Later promotional material highlighted the four principle characters (two females and two males), but failed to betray the fact that the film was another princess play from the company that made this trope famous.

But getting kids and parents in the theater is only part of the story.  With Frozen, Disney created another mainstay movie that parents and kids love (and already rewatch over and over).  So, how is Frozen unique in the Disney Princess world and why are parents and kids—especially young girls – so drawn to it?

Princesses can be complex too.  Frozen throws out the typical good versus evil dynamic we've come to expect from Disney animation, especially the classic fairy tales.  Instead, Frozen gives us two princesses at odds with each other.  Neither one is entirely good nor evil.  Both sisters are capable of doing some not-so-nice things (Ana yelling at her sister and Elsa emotionally shutting Ana out), but they are also capable of love and compassion.  These Disney Princesses don't just need to be rescued; they can also do the rescuing.  Frozen lets Elsa and Anna be more than pretty images on screen.  They are complex characters who struggle with relationships and their own identities.  Parents looking to teach their young daughters how to be true to themselves have found some great messages in Frozen.

Defy Expectations.  Early on in Frozen, it looks as if Disney is delivering another "love at first sight" with a young princess and handsome prince.  But the movie quickly rejects the idea of love at first sight and becomes a story about the relationship between two sisters.  One of the reasons fairy tales can be so comforting is that their plots are predicable and formulaic.  By violating expectations of plot, Frozen demands a lot of thought out of its young audience.  Frozen proves that kids don’t always need the simple and familiar stories.  Fans of this Disney film are embracing something that defies everything they’ve come to expect (and frankly, love) about the genre. 

It's not just about beauty—it's also about the ideas.  Some critics have found Frozen's plot to be overly simplistic (or non-existent).  But Frozen is a movie with some pretty big ideas.  Do you hide who you are or "let it go?"  Love is complicated and understanding true love takes work.  You have to take the good with bad, and figure out how to balance to two.  Kids watching Frozen not only get to see some spectacular animation and sing along to catchy songs, they are also confronted with big ideas and questions.  One of the reasons the film has been so popular is that these questions and ideas speak to kids.  Kids have a lot of questions about how the world works, and Frozen respects the seriousness of these questions.  Kids don’t feel talked down to by the film; instead, they are empowered by it. This is the junior viewer’s thinking movie – and we think parents and kids are ready for it.

Girly-Girls can be strong too.  While Frozen is unique and subverts a lot of familiar tropes of the Disney princess, it doesn’t completely reject the genre.  Unlike Brave’s Merida, who is sometimes so opposite of a Disney Princess that she potentially isolates the primary audience of the Disney Princess franchise, Anna is allowed to be kind of a girly-girl.  Anna has moments where she needs help, but she isn't completely helpless.  Young girls who love the Disney Princesses have a lot to love about Frozen, but unlike some early film, they also have a lot to learn about what it means to be a strong girl.  And obviously, the strength Frozen gives them. 

Tags: movies, Youth, youth media

What a Tough Economy Tells Us About Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Teen Shopping SpendingBeing a teenager has always been tough, but according to a recent study on teen employment, a rough economy makes finding work more trying than ever for them.  The employment rate for teens ages 16-19 has fallen from 45% in 2000 to 26% in 2011 - the lowest employment rate for teens since World War II. 

While numerous studies suggest that teens are increasingly choosing to focus on school and forgo working, this study accounts for "underutilized" labor—teens that have part-time jobs, but want to work full-time and teens that aren't looking for work, but also want to be working full-time.  In other words, for teens who do want to work, the jobs just aren’t there. 

If you’re interested in gaining a clear picture of the lives of teens today, these findings contribute a crucial piece to the puzzle. But beyond simply describing the current state of affairs, we think this study should inspire some sound insights about the future of the youth market.  Of course, fewer teens working might mean less disposable income for this cohort, but it also means that how teens spend (and think about spending) will change.

So, what might the current economic crisis mean for the future of teen spending?

They will make education (even more of) a priority.  Staying in school has become increasingly important to teens and all Americans, but we predict that more teens will deliberately forgo working to continue with or focus on their education. These teens will seek out supplies to make their school years more productive. In other words, for marketers, think school is cool.

They will prioritize products with longevity.  Even though teens are looking for deals, they also want to get their money’s worth.  Products that last longer are increasingly more appealing to this economically challenged cohort.  Even the "coolest" product can get a bad reputation if it's known to have a short shelf life.  Don't be afraid to emphasize your product’s long-term potential.   

They will make shopping about more than just spending.  With less money to spend, teens might be avoiding retail stores more than their cohorts from previous generations.  And when they do browse, teens feel less obligated to spend on the spot than in the past. This might seem like bad news for marketers, but instead, we think this signals some unexpected opportunities. Acknowledge that the shopping experience is increasingly social – both in-store and online. Don’t despair if they’re window-shopping – getting in their consideration set should be considered the first and critical win with these savvy, strategic shoppers.

They will ponder their purchases more than ever before. Forget your image of the impulsive teen buyer. Teens have become more thorough and more thoughtful in their purchases. This is why it’s vital to facilitate the evaluation process through reviews, demos, etc. Encouraging teens to think about their purchases will show them that you value their time and respect their wallets. 

Tags: Youth, Teens, shopping, fashion, money

Relating Your Work to Children’s Rights

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Mar 07, 2014 @ 04:29 PM

Conducting research, or creating content, or engaging in marketing with youth can be tricky business. Many of us who have made our careers in the youth and family space know that attending to the legalities of youth marketing and research – online and offline – is just the beginning of considering the ethics of these endeavors. Many of us who spend significant time working on kid, tween or teen brands, products, and at youth oriented companies and organizations reflect upon the way our work affects the lives of children. Most of us question and worry about our work. We treat the job of communicating with and to children as a sacred one – not business as usual, but rather business that can make a difference – positive or negative – in the lives of children. But linking our work to children’s rights? Is that going too far?unicef

Not surprisingly, LEGO doesn’t think so. Recently, LEGO announced that they were going to start taking steps in their online and offline marketing to protect the rights of children, specifically those outlined in UNICEF's Children's Rights and Business Principles, a guide to help business encourage and protect children's rights. UNICEF contends that companies not only have a responsibility to ensure that communication and marketing does not have an adverse affect on children's rights, but that marketing should be encouraging children's rights.

These principles might be geared towards businesses, but they call to mind a more comprehensive document, United Nation’s Conventions of the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC), that serves as the first legally binding international instrument created to protect the human—civil, cultural, economic, political, and social—rights of children. 

Established in 1989, the UN-CRC outlines the basic rights and protections that all children should be given.  While the UN-CRC is a political instrument meant to help governments, it also gives us insight into a global idea of what rights children have.  Certainly all the articles of the UN-CRC are interesting, but three stood out to us and being particularly important for youth marketers and content creators:

Article 13: Freedom of Expression.  Children have the right to give and receive information as long as that information is not damaging to them or others.  Children’s voices are important, and Article 13 acknowledges that not only do children have voices, but what they have to say is valuable.  This article not only encourages creative expression and children’s rights to express their feelings and become active producers, it also encourages adults to remember that the voices of children should be heard.

Article 17: Right to Media.  Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being.  Rather than discourage media, the UN-CRC encourages media specifically designed for children, media that considers the needs and interests of children.  More than just produce media for children, Article 17 also reminds us that this media should be available in multiple languages and be made available to all children.  Children have the right to access media that represents the diversity of the world.   

Article 31: Right to Play.  Children have the right to relax and play and join in cultural and artistic activities.  Article 31 is our favorite and one we completely agree with.  Play can promote health and foster relationships.  More importantly, play is a human right, something all children need to experience.  The UN-CRC doesn’t limit itself on what play and leisure mean.  Sports, games, toys, and relaxation should all be made available to children. 

The UN-CRC reminds us that children are active agents in the world, and that our work has the power to support them. It’s likely the work that you’re doing considers children’s voices, or children’s right to media or children’s need for play. But considering these “strategies” or brand equities or positioning as rights might raise the stakes in your own organizations and on your youth teams.

Tags: Social Issues, kids tweens teens, culture, news