Toy Fair Recon 2017 – Major Trends in the Toy Industry

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 09:18 AM

The YouthBeat team once again attended Toy Fair in New York, and it was another exciting year!  There’s a lot going on in the toy space, and here are a few of our favorite themes:

  • Danger is fun! Our subscribers have heard us talk about Millennial parents’ greater acceptance of a little bit of risk in their children’s play.  There was no shortage of toys that will feed into this.
    • Our favorite was Fiesty Pets--they look cuddly until their heads are squeezed, then “Rawr!”
    • Marshmallow guns and bows and arrows aren’t exactly new, but they are as prevalent as ever and super fun to play with, even if the child just wants to have a snack.
  • Clean sandbox play. Think of it as an evolution of kinetic sand.
    • Floof (a snow version), Mad Matter (colorful dough to play in), and Sands Alive (snow or sand) all offer the ability to mold and create without getting too sticky or dirty.
  • Bubbles, in any form, never go out of style.
    • Zuru makes large plastic ones that envelop each player, for fun Sumo-style wrestling.
    • Candylicious Bubbles was there with their blow-able and edible bubbles and toys. Yum! 
    • Their parent company, Little Kids, was there with their 25-year-old brand Fubbles and a costumed Fubble giving out free hugs!
  • Mystery and surprise are still thrilling.
    • Half Toys open up to reveal a skeleton inside, which can range from a dinosaur to a human. Perfect for a budding scientist. 
    • Surprizamals are miniature, adorable plushes that are a mystery until opened—and highly collectible.
    • Sourcebooks is offering a range of “How to Catch…” mystical creatures books, including elves, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and new this year, a Leprechaun.
  • Do-gooding is rising to the forefront.  We saw several companies with overt “giving back” components—not necessarily new programs, but more prominently proclaimed than in prior years. 
    • One of our favorites was Bears for Humanity. For every purchase of one of their animals, they donate one to a child in need.
    • United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is another great example. They run a book program in which proceeds from book sales go to grants for families with disabled children (things like a specially equipped ski so the child can ski with his or her family). 
    • Many other companies are using sustainable materials, to “give back” a healthy planet to all children, regardless of whether they use their products.

The exhibition floor contained plenty of drones, robotics, and other electronic toys.  And there is plenty of time for kids to engage with digital entertainment too.  But the toys that really stood out and touched our hearts this year are the ones that offered good old-fashioned fun, excitement, and kindness.

Tags: youth research, toys, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, toy trends

2016: The Year in Review of Youth

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 @ 03:41 PM

Many adults on social media have declared themselves glad to be done with 2016.  For youth and their parents, there were certainly moments of angst and uncertainty, but also moments of inspiration and just plain fun.  A few of the highlights we noted across the year:

American Academy of Pediatrics Changes Recommendations for Screen Time

In our YouthBeat® and YouthBeat® Jr. surveys, parents routinely report 
that preschoolers, kids, and tweens have about 2 hours of screen time a day—which we believe is woefully underreported.  But we know why.  For many years, pediatricians have been telling parents that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t have any TV time, and that older kids should have no more than 2 hours—so that’s what parents tell themselves is happening. Over the last five years, the presence of tablets and smartphones in year in review image 1-1.jpghomes and schools has accelerated, as has the beneficial content available to youth—including not just educational material, but also high-quality entertainment in television programming and online content.  The American Academy of Pediatrics last fall defined “screen time” as only the digital exposure that is entertainment-related.  Schoolwork doesn’t count.  For 2-5 year-olds, the new recommendation is an hour a day, and for 6 year-olds and above, there is no time limit recommendation.  Rather, parents are encouraged to have their children take breaks, spend quality face-to-face time, and help their children understand what high-quality entertainment looks like.  We expect in coming years that parents’ estimates of screen time will increase.

Sea World Announces End of Orca Whale Breeding and Shows

Though spurred by pressure from adults over the breeding and treatment of the marine mammals, the gesture is consistent with what Generation Z expects and demands from the adults who are the custodians of nature.  seaworld.jpgAlong those lines, an 11-year old Michigan boy started a non-profit called Polar Army with the aim of raising awareness of the impact of global warming on the polar bear population.  Some teens even became activists for climate change, suing the federal government for knowing about the threat of climate change for decades, but continuing to endanger the lives of future generations.  They say this limits their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Stay tuned for news from the courts to see what happens—and know that this generation expects adults to be responsible in their use and care of the environment and the human and animal creatures that inhabit it.

Flint, MI Water Crisis Extends Across U.S.

Since the tainted water crisis in Flint became national news in 2015, other municipalities began testing their own water supplies—particularly those in schools.  An alarming number were found to have unsafe amounts of
lead.  So much so that in our YouthBeat Global study, U.S. parents wereelite-daily-flint-michigan-water-crisis-twitter.jpg more likely to encourage their children to drink bottled water (66%) than tap water (57%).  Parents only in Mexico, China, and India were more likely than parents in the U.S. to prefer bottled to tap water.  In late 2016, criminal charges were filed against several local government officials in Flint who allegedly knew of the dangerous water content and did not act to protect the children in their constituencies.  Youth were unable to stand up for themselves as these dangerous waters flowed to them—but the effects of the tainted water could be felt for decades.

Pokémon Go

It’s rated E for Everyone and took the country by storm in the summer of 2016. C+R Research even blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.  For kids, just like adults, it represented a fun way to get out and move around without consciously exercising.  And, when played with parents, it was a great way Pokemon-GO-APK-DOWNLOAD-for-Android-Latest-Version-and-PC.jpgto bond and spend time together. But the parents in our Parentspeak community had mixed feelings about the game. As one mom summed it up, “The 10 year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be, so she entertains herself with other games.” Their concerns were largely around children playing by themselves—parents were happy to allow children to play from the car while driving past Pokémon, or with parental supervision.  Our take at YouthBeat® is that the Pokémon Go craze is perfectly fine for kids to play, with a responsible adult playing alongside.

Colin Kaepernick Takes a Knee

Colin Kaepernik of the San Francisco 49ers made headlines last fall for kneeling during the national anthem before football games.  His actions, in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, caught a lot of backlash on social media as being Anti-American and anti-veteran.  Moreover, in a Yahoo/YouGov poll, a third of NFL fans said they were watching less football than usual, and 40% of them blamed Colin Kaepernick’s protests.  At the same time, he inspired some high school football players to kneel during the national anthem at their own games.  From Seattle to North Carolina, teens followed suit in support of BLM.Colin-Kaepernick.jpg  We’ve written before about the importance of the movement to multicultural youth, as it was inspired by the deaths of African-American children as young as age 12. Kneeling is their way of saying they’re aware, they care, and they are taking sides.

These are just a few of the events that shaped the lives of youth in 2016.  For creators of content and products for youth, 2017 represents a new opportunity to inspire, to entertain, and to delight the youngest consumers.  We look forward to seeing what our youth + family clients provide to support their well-being, and we are here to help.

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens, trends

In the Era of Millennials and Stay-at-Home Dads, Has Parenting Fundamentally Changed?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 10:14 AM

In an homage to modern dads, on Father’s Day this past June, Chicago columnist Heidi Stevens called out the softer, more caring adults that are portrayed in the media today. In this, she compared them to the fondly remembered, but not as nice portrayal of adult relationships of 80s and 90s movies. That got us thinking: how is “real” parenting different now?

Certainly, demographics have shifted across a generation. Pew Research data shows that dads are increasingly stay-at-home caregivers, and less likely to be the sole source of household income.  Of preschool dads in our sample, 5% are stay-at-home dads. Even when dads work outside the home, they’re responsible for more traditional child caregiving tasks than ever before. Our YouthBeat data shows that more than half of our preschool dads report being involved either “somewhat” or “very much” in the daily activities of their children’s lives; in everything from shopping for children’s clothes to communicating with a school/daycare to planning children’s birthday parties.*

Most of these preschool parents are Millennials. In our YouthBeat data, half of Millennial moms and dads with children in 1st-4th grades said they feel that their parenting style is different from their own parents’ approach to raising children.** Though, interestingly, while 75% of Millennial parents feel that it’s much harder to be a parent today than it was in the past, this is less than those who felt that way four years ago (83%)***. So is parenting, then, getting a little easier?

Not so fast.  We’re seeing a few other things come into play that could explain this shift:

  1. Millennial parents’ kids are more connected to them than ever. Parents of all ages routinely say that they give their child their first cell phone so that the child can be reachable. This gives parents peace of mind in a child’s well-being, for the low, low price of a family cell phone plan.
  2. Millennials approach their parenting with a sense of humor. Just follow #parentingfail, or watch Jimmy Fallon to see how parents today poke fun at the ridiculousness of daily family life. And they’ve given advertisers permission to laugh along with them. For a cute take on how this occurs, check out the Halos spot where the girl whose parents ran out found her little brother duct taped to the wall.
  3. Technology offers parenting aids that simply weren’t available even four years ago. There is Amazon Prime Now, Uber Eats, and Netflix Kids, just to name a few. While some Millennial parents are worried about the dangers of technology and connection for their kids, the tradeoff is that they offer convenience that can offset those drawbacks.

So who’s raising our country’s kids today? It’s a very different mix than it was a generation ago. It’s more male; it’s more connected, and it sees challenges, but it has a sense of humor about the most important job in the world.

In this environment, smart brands are the ones who offer not just another product or app—but a way to bring families together for quality time, save some of the scarce resource of time that parents have to hang out with their kids, or give everyone a good belly laugh together.

*Source: YouthBeat, Jr., Spring 2016
**Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2015
***Source: YouthBeat, Total Year 2011

Tags: kids, parents, kids tweens teens market research, dad, kids tweens teens, parenting, millennials

Rio: Inspiring Golden Opportunities

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 @ 08:10 AM

The 2016 Summer Olympics have come to an end and will be remembered as the event with awe-inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, amazing feats and chasing your dreams. During the past 16 days of the Olympics, the lessons learned span all ages, but perhaps the group with the most to gain is our youth. But did they tune in? In the first half of 2016, only 44% of youth (37% of kids, 48% of tweens, and 49% of teens) said they were interested in watching the Summer Olympics.Those numbers increased significantly as the Rio Olympics actually got under way. According to participants in our August 2016 YouthBeat survey, 65% of youth (58% of kids, 74% of tweens, and 62% of teens) said they want to watch the Summer Olympics. 

Not only were youth tuning into the excitement of the event, but the stars of Rio are already having an impact on them. While athletes like Lebron James and Michael Jordan usually dominate youth’s list of favorite athletes, in our August survey medalists such Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles have made their way to the top of the list.  Olympic swimmers Katie Ledecky, Lily King, and Missy Franklin also got mentions as did soccer star, Alex Morgan, and volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings. And already 11% of the mentions name a member of the gold medal winning gymnastics team, the Final Five (Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, or Madison Kocian). 

The Olympics leave many youth feeling hopeful that they too could someday capture a medal of their own.  When asked what they want to be when they grow up, being an athlete is the second most popular career boys aspire to. For girls it is tenth. But the concentration of strong and successful women athletes being showcased on TV screens and in the news during the Olympics may leave more girls with athletic dreams of their own. That is what the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. summer sport national governing bodies are hoping for. While 54% of youth participate in a sport, only 13% do it at an elite or highly competitive level.* The NBC Gold Map hopes to use the platform of the Olympics and the inspiring stories of its athletes to encourage youth to start their own journey in an Olympic sport, whether for fun or competitively. The website stands as a great resource for youth to learn more about each Olympic sport and how they can get involved. Here at YouthBeat, we believe anything that encourages kids, tweens, and teens to try new opportunities and chase their dreams is a worthy endeavor. 

 *According to YouthBeat data from January to June 2016.

Tags: youth research, kids, kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, olympics, athletes

Is Pokemon Go for Kids?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 09:20 AM

It’s rated “E” for Everyone and has taken the world by storm in the few weeks since its launch. Unquestionably, Pokemon GO represents a breakthrough in augmented reality for adults. But, what is this new craze’s value to kids? Beyond the many existing augmented reality apps available, we see that the value it brings is twofold:

  • It is a fun way to bond with parents when the family plays together, and
  • It encourages walking around and getting exercise.

But, along with the fun and exercise comes some concerns for parents.  Many of them do not want their children playing Pokemon GO without adult supervision for several reasons:

  • The app collects a lot of personal information from the device on which it is installed (it asks for geolocation, photos, media, and other files, access to contacts, and the ability to take pictures and record videos).
  • In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires verifiable parental permission to collect this kind of personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13 — that’s why to register as a trainer within the game requires a birthdate. Many parents want to keep such information about their children private.
  • The app may suggest to children that they go places that they otherwise would not be allowed by themselves (or at all) in order to ‘catch’ Pokemon.
  • The economic model of the game is based on in-app purchases which parents may not want their children to be able to make.

Our online parent community, ParentSpeak, reports mixed feelings about Pokemon GO.  Here is what some parents say:

  • “It is the hot new game for teens to play at camp. She is 12 and it keeps them after camp and running around.”
  • “My child is not playing. She is 10 years old. Her and her dad did just get into geocaching though.”
  • “My 7-year-old son is excited, though he doesn’t know much about Pokemon.”
  • “My 11-year-old plays it only while in the car driving by Pokemons. Nothing by herself on foot.”
  • “The 10-year-old wanted to play but I didn’t want her wandering off and getting into places she shouldn’t be so she entertains herself with other games.”

So is Pokemon GO for kids?  From our YouthBeat® data, we know that Generation Z is tighter with their parents than Millennials were.  Our POV is that Pokemon GO is a great app for family interaction—so yes, then, in a family context with parental supervision, Pokemon GO is great for kids.

To read more about Pokemon GO, check out the blog on our parent company’s website, crresearch.com, where we blogged about the #GottaCatchEmAll craze and why it was a game changer…in the adult world.

Tags: youth research, Gaming, kids, kids tweens teens market research, Youth, kids tweens teens

Trending: Ongoing Kid, Tween and Teen Feedback Panels

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 @ 03:09 PM

Target made headlines in the July 2016 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek for turning to youth advisors to help them reconfigure their clothing offerings for kids. By doing this, Target has reportedly touched base with over 1,000 children across a variety of different environments in an effort to help lead the overhaul of their children’s department. Without knowing the specifics, it sounds like they used an elegant mixed-method research approach that allowed them to influence children’s opinions in a myriad of ways.

Several of our clients at C+R have also undertaken similar youth-fueled insight programs of product and retail environment development in the last few years.  What’s different about these approaches is that they leverage a much smaller sample size, yet they yield rich and wide-ranging results. The designs of the recurring programs vary and may include:

  • In-person focus groups or panel discussions with the same children (and parents!)
  • Online qualitative discussions, each one on a different topic and populated from a pool of pre-recruited respondents (using our KidzEyes panel, which is fully COPPA-compliant and allows us to talk directly to youth respondents)
  • Mobile “missions” on a variety of foundational (a “Day in the Life” video collage) to tactical (e.g., shopping trip) topics
  • Immersive visits with client teams and youth participants for the purpose of empathy-building (e.g., a structured visit to the zoo complete with scavenger hunts and team T-shirts)

Our clients keep commissioning these recurring panels because of the many benefits they offer. Some of these benefits include:

  1. The kids get invested in the brands. They become part of the internal team. They get to know the moderators if it’s qualitative, and this personal connection makes them want to help the sponsoring company. They’re motivated to give good responses—not positively biased ones, but constructive criticism that helps make sound business decisions.
  2. The panels are more efficient with time. When an urgent need comes up, like a “disaster check” for a new package design, we don’t have to start the recruit from scratch. We have a list of kids in the right age targets and geographies who use the categories that we can tap into. This allows us to sometimes turn a project around start to finish within just a week.
  3. Ongoing panels are cost-effective. Initial set-up fees are higher than a standalone study because respondents who are willing to make a longer-term commitment are harder to find. But over the long term, re-contact fees are far less expensive than recruiting new respondents from scratch every time. Plus, there is a greater efficiency in protocols. For example, if several waves of products are tested over the course of the year, we reduce our analytic time and fees. An entire year’s worth of research can often be accomplished for what it would cost to conduct four to six independent studies.
  4. Most importantly, they’re good experiences for the kid respondents. They learn something about the way businesses make decisions, and the different types of decisions along the product cycle that have to be made. They also learn that adults care about what they have to say and will actually listen to them and implement their recommendations. That’s a powerful sense of control for a generation that is as influential as any in marketing research history.

Tags: kids, kids tweens teens market research, Teens, kids tweens teens, tweens, online research, panels

How “Z” Are You?

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

Here at YouthBeat, we’ve been surveying youth for more than a decade.  We had Millennials in our data set when they were teens, and we have Generation Z now.  This gives us the unique ability to compare the attitudes and behaviors of these two generations, based on their actual responses to our survey questions.

We’ve recently undertaken a large-scale analysis of more than 20,000 responses to our holistic lifestyle study from 2009-2015, and we’ll be reporting out the findings at the Marketing to Generation Z Conference in New York in October 2016 (click here for a link to the conference website).  Let us know if you plan to attend—as conference sponsors, we can give you a discount code to use.

This was a fascinating exercise for us—we entered into it with several hypotheses (“stereotypes” is such a negative word), and the results were very surprising! Themes that we expected, but didn’t necessarily see validated, include:

  1. Millennials Lite: Being so close in age to Millennials, Gen Z (which some call Centennials) should largely share the attitudes and behaviors of those who passed through a few years ahead of them.
  2. Bleak Financial Outlook: Both generations lived through the housing and stock market crashes of 2007, so both should have similar behaviors when it comes to saving and spending.
  3. Social Creatures: Gen Z, living in a connected age, should be more active on social media than their Millennial counterparts.
  4. Multicultural Melding: The youngest Gen Zers come from no single majority ethnic background (some call them Plurals for this reason). All ethnic groups, then, should think and act in similar ways.
  5. Principled + Charitable: Growing up in the age of TOMS, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials were to put their money into brands that engage in cause-related marketing.
  6. Media Multitaskers: With so many functions available on mobile devices, Gen Zers should be more likely than Millennials to be engaged in multiple activities at a time.

In each of these areas, we identify marketing campaigns that fit squarely with the preferences and ideals of Generation Z…and some that miss the mark.

And here’s the best part…we crafted a fun quiz so you can find out whether your mindset is more aligned with the Millennial or the Gen Z generation. 

  Click Here to Take the Quiz!

 

Tags: kids tweens teens market research, kids tweens teens, millennials, Gen Z, generation research

Kids, Tweens, and Teens at the Holidays 2015: Toy and Gift Wish List Results

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Mon, Dec 07, 2015 @ 10:32 AM

Coolest wish list toys!  Holiday wish list alert!  Tech toys kids want! Headlines are hollering this year, whipping parents and gift-givers into a frenzy with the goal of pleasing children during the holiday gift-giving season.  The National Retail Federation predicts that overall holiday spending will top $630 billion this year, up nearly 4% over last year.  This makes sense in households with children, given:

  • Lower gas prices according to AA, thus higher household disposable income

  • The multitude of digital and high-tech-meets tactile toys (think Skylanders, Disney Infinity, or Star Wars/Sphero BB-8 robot) available this year, at higher price points than traditional toys

The holiday gift guides for childern have two consistent themes: 1. Go with anything Star Wars, and/or 2) buy something high-tech (virtual reality, cameras, or tablets).  The browsing and list-making process itself has become tech-saturated.  The Toys ‘R Us catalog includes codes that unlock virtual games and 3D augmented reality views of the products. Kids can create wish lists using Amazon or Target’s Wish List app

All of this sounds very exciting.  Is it, however, what kids are asking for, or what we as adults are projecting onto their desires?  Our 2015 Holiday Wish List survey is in, showing that kids’ desires might be simpler than we think.  Click here to download the Holiday Wish List infographic.

Sure, kids are asking for Star Wars—as long as they’re Lego sets.  Robots and talking dolls?  Not so much.  That’s not to say that they won’t love the more sophisticated toys that they receive this year.  The key to pleasing the recipient is to fit with their favorite play patterns, be it role playing with dolls or action figures, building, or game play. Most of all, they’d really like to pick out their own presents, so consider a gift card.  This commercial for IKEA underscores kids’ desires for simple pleasures at the holidays (spoiler alert: Grab a tissue). 

We also asked kids about their charitable giving over the holiday season.  Most are participating in some way, primarily by donating toys/gifts, food, or clothing.  Just for fun, we asked them whether they’d rather give all of their holiday gifts this year to charity, or forego their electronics and media for a month.  Kids in 1st-4th grades overwhelmingly want to keep the gifts and give up the media, as do the better part of tweens in 5th-8th grades. Teens disagree; the majority would gladly give up the holiday haul in order to hang on to their sources of connectedness, information, and entertainment.

So make those lists and check them twice. But do it knowing that youth pleasures are simple and eternal, even as the toys we build and buy for them grow more complex.

Happy Holidays from YouthBeat!

Tags: youth research, toys, target, wish list, kids tweens teens market research, star wars, holiday, trends, infographic

Towards Teen Girls’ Self-Acceptance of Appearance

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Fri, Oct 09, 2015 @ 02:20 PM

The way teen girls feel about their appearance can change on a dime.  A kind word, a cruel one, even how many “likes” their latest selfie receives, can impact the way they feel in the moment.  At YouthBeat, we track the way youth are feeling about their looks every year. 

Over the past few years, teen girls’ feelings about their looks have fluctuated, and in the first half of 2015 they’re not feeling as great as they could. Top 2 box agreement that “I am happy with the way I look” is down from a high of 55% in 2013 to just 47% this year.  Compare that to 61% of teen boys who are currently happy with their appearance, and the percentage seems even starker. 

Plus-size models NYFashionWeekIn this climate of acceptance of others—even as last month’s New York Fashion Week was inclusive of various sizes, shapes, combinations of features, and gender identities—our teen girls aren’t feeling as good about their looks as the adults who love them might hope. 

One marketer, Dove, has launched a new “Change One Thing” campaign that aims to move teen girls’ self-esteem needle in the right direction.  The spot features a series of teen girls, each speaking a wish for a different physical feature, followed by another teen girl with that desired feature, speaking her own wish.  The point is that, well, the grass is always greener the other side…in the looks department (reminding teen viewers that someone desperately wishes they could look like YOU).  The campaign is part of Dove’s overarching Campaign for Real Beauty, and consistent with its spots targeting adults, features layperson consumers, rather than professional models.  The new campaign also coincides with a Dove + Pinterest partnership in which 80 self-esteem boosting pins are available for teens. 

BitmojiAnother approach is to take real-life images out of the mix altogether.  Bitstrips, the online comic creation tool, allows teens (and adults) to create virtual avatars, usually with enough identifying features to look roughly like the creator.  The projection into cartoon style makes features less detailed, glossing over the one little thing that one might nitpick, and focusing on all of the things the creator loves about himself or herself.  Here, the author’s Bitmoji (a similar cartoon avatar, suitable for using in messages) delivers a positive self-affirmation. 

How can your brand help?  Closely examine every facet of your messaging to teens, especially girls.  What kind of standards of beauty are you promoting?  What kind of self-talk are you encouraging?  The village needs to pay more attention to these teen girls, who are still children.  Be a positive voice for them.

Tags: girls, Appearance, kids tweens teens market research, Dove, Teens, fashion, gender