Brands Capitalize on Youth Influencing Parents

Posted by Jane Ott on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 09:37 AM

The more technology proliferates our lives, the more native kids become to any aspect of technology, often putting them in the position of being the in-house “experts” and helping mom and dad with setting up and programming devices.  Combined with Gen Z kids having an increasing say in non-traditional household matters (such as travel and tablets) as we’ve seen in our YouthBeat parents’ data, this generation has been dubbed as “reverse influencers” – they influence their parents just as much as their parents influence them. 

Marketers have been capitalizing on this trend by engaging kids in their advertising from the ground up – influencing parents by giving their kids a role in the marketing game.  It’s not a new concept, engage kids to ask for something to spur parent purchases, or even use kids to market a product not at all related to them.  And, parents hear multiple requests in a day, even in an hour.  So what is it about these marketing campaigns that look different with this generation? 

  • They break away from products that kids traditionally have had influence on
  • They offer parents a new way to connect with their kids and tug at emotional ties by sharing a kids’ point of view of something that parents may take for granted
  • They give kids an opportunity to push boundaries and shine in a grown up world by validating their feelings, dreams, and imaginations
  • They focus on simple tenets of childhood that every kid, and parent, can relate to
  • They take it beyond traditional media into new formats or tie ins with relevant causes to reinforce the message   

What are some of the brands that are doing this well?   Some of our favorites include:

  • Dove’s Love your Curls. This commercial, as well as their related book of poetry and curly hair people emojis reminds us that parents and kids win when we show kids how to love themselves, just as they are:

Tags: TV, Youth, parents, brands, advertisment, marketing

A Second Generation of Youth Empowerment

Posted by Mary McIlrath on Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 03:10 PM

Kids' Choice Awards logoYour weekend TV viewing quiz question:

Q: Which award winner or winners on Saturday evening’s broadcast of the Kids’ Choice Awards on Nickelodeon said that they had “grown up” watching the awards?

A) Nick Jonas
B) Emma Stone
C) Angelina Jolie
D) Both A) and B)
E) None of the above

Kudos to you if you watched, and correctly guessed answer D

The winners have spoken, and the culture of kid empowerment has reached a second generation. The Kids Choice Awards were created in the mid-1980s, when Jonas and Stone were in the voter target.  Now they’re both in their early to mid-20s, of an age to have children themselves.

Parents of kids, tweens, and even teens in our latest YouthBeat data tell us that they’re a different breed now.  Ironically, one might argue, they report that they have more in common with their children than did parents of previous generations.  Case in point: SpongeBob SquarePants took home his ninth Kids’ Choice trophy this weekend as Favorite Cartoon.  He’s still got something for everyone, whether the viewer is the parent who knew him back when, or the young child who has just discovered him.

Elsewhere in the audience Saturday night, the star-studded crowd rivaled the Golden Globes in its variety of talent across platforms.  Present was everyone from Disney Channel actress Debby Ryan, to Little League World Series celebrity athlete Mo’ne Davis, to movie star Angelina Jolie, to recording artists Jennifer Lopez and Meghan Trainor. 

Modern Family at Kids' Choice AwardsOne winner stood out as appealing to kids, though targeted above kids’ maturity level.  Modern Family took home the Kids Choice Award on Saturday night for Favorite Family TV Show.  It is not surprising that a program that won the last five Emmy awards for Outstanding Comedy Series would attract a broad audience, especially when 86% of parents report co-viewing television programs with their child.*  Moreover, while Modern Family’s absurd situations are clearly fictional, it reflects authentic emotions and funnybone-ticklers that children of all ages appreciate. 

Now for extra credit, an essay question:

Q:  What can your brand do to recognize the empowered nature of this generation of youth in a way that is inclusive of their parents?

 *Top 2 box; YouthBeat data for total year 2014

Tags: kids, Nickelodeon, Youth, Teens, TV, tweens

5 Reasons Why Teens Love the Youngest Jenner Girls

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 @ 04:09 PM

Kendall and Kylie Jenner

On the surface, Kendall and Kylie Jenner are not relatable in any sense of the word. They come from one of the most globally recognizable families in the world. They call an Olympic athlete their dad and a “Momager” their mom.  Kendall Jenner’s IMDB bio describes her as an “American socialite, television personality and model.” Kylie Jenner hangs with Will Smith’s son, movie star Jaden Smith. Their famous sisters (and half brothers) have had self-titled TV shows, and almost everyone in their family of drinking age is paid in the thousands of dollars for merely appearing at a party. Not to mention that their lives have been filmed and broadcast since the age of 10 (Kylie) and 12 (Kendall).

But despite the odds, they might have just become role models of a certain sort to today’s youth. What makes these girls the celebs of the moment goes beyond good marketing and a public platform that is arguably unrivaled (although those help). We think that they were far from destined to become today’s trendiest teens (with millions following them on Twitter). And while there are many reasons why adults might critique their particular brand of fame, we’re endlessly curious about the reasons why these girls have connected with today’s teens.

  1. They defy the script. Despite being part of the most scripted unscripted family of all time, the youngest Jenner sisters consistently seem to speak in a different tone, in a different way than their older counterparts. Kylie dyes her hair blue. Kendall prefers to portray herself as awkward and anti-social versus gregarious and polished. They publicly criticize their celebrity family (all the while, reassuring listeners that they’re all about familial love). They sometimes shun the camera (all the while, continuing to post selfies of all sorts).
  2. They eschew entitlement. Like their older sisters, these girls seem to engage in deals across multiple domains. But the image they’ve cultivated is one that suggests that they are workers. Beyond constantly praising the work ethic of their parents, they have served as “interns,” designers for a line at Pac Sun (who, in the “fashion” of the day, claim to be hands on, and they’ve written a fictional novel). Even Kendall’s recent success as a model feels like it’s fueled more by the kind of flow she gets from pursuing a lifelong passion (even though, in early episodes of the series, she buckled under the pressure her older sister put on her to take modeling classes).
  3. They have issues. But they have the right kind of issues – teen angst, sibling rivalry, a little bit of narcissism - but they’re not known for promiscuity, overindulgence, or insensitivity. Remember, their young fans are much more morally self-righteous than we might expect. Tweens, in particular,are quick to feel uncomfortable when their idols make ill-advised decisions.
  4. They care about creativity. They represent a kind of creative class of youth that feels both age-appropriate and consistent with the ethos of their cohort of youth. It’s unlikely that teens will read the countless scathing reviews of their newest endeavor, a novel entitled Rebels: City of Indra, and instead will see them as “authors” of a form that feels different than the memoirs of their famous sister and mother. They treat fashion with reverence that helps to elevate their occupation as “designers” and models to a respectable height. And their boho style, while fueled by designer labels, feels more earthy and relatable to today’s teen girls who see themselves as more creative than  luxury-laden. 
  5. They’re connected. It’s not just about tweeting or posting a never-ending stream of images on Instagram. They’re connected to each other – they come as a pair like so many popular kid and teen characters (remember Mary Kate and Ashley?). They are surrounded by people and have a built in social club in the form of their siblings. This reassurance that these stylish, attractive girls are also part of a larger team is critical to keeping them within reach. 

Tags: girls, parents, novel, Youth, Teens, fashion, TV, tweens, books

Reflections From a (U.S.) Youth Researcher Abroad

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 12:02 PM

Recently, our family spent spring break in Italy with two boys of our own, and two nephews allItaly under the age of six. While technically “off the clock,” I couldn’t help but bring my researchers’ eyes along for the ride. This is by no means a scientific study, but this fresh look at youth and this, admittedly, random collection of observations and reminders has left me with ideas and inspiration for the past few weeks. I hope they do the same for you!

  • The slides are steeper.  In the town where we stayed, the fountain at the piazza’s center was backed by a modern playground comprised of colorful slides, bridges and tunnels, and climb-able trucks and trains. By all accounts, this play space looked like it could have been in Chicago or New Jersey, or anywhere else in the world. Except for the slide. It was STEEP! As if our American-ness wasn’t already apparent in this off-the-beaten path town, the way we gawked at the tall yellow slide signaled that we were not from “around here.” But what insight can possibly be gleaned from the slope of a slide? Like so many European TV programs (if you ever have the chance, see the brilliant David Kleeman’s presentation on the big risks that children’s television takes in other markets around the world), risk looks a little different outside our borders. There was hardly glass on the ground, and no dangerous characters lingered by the swings, but this playground didn’t have signs signaling appropriate ages, and it had one heck of a drop from the top. The fun for kids from this whizzzzzzzz came from taking off, however tentatively, one’s cloak of nervousness to experience the joy and
    bravado that comes from tackling a phobia. More was at stake on this slide than on their safer American counterparts. Too bad for all the undercover superheroes in the U.S. just waiting for their chance to fly.
  • Play is a language. The highlight of our vacation, at least for me, came not from watching the sun set over a grove of olive trees (although that was nice) or a glass of vino with family (nice as well) but watching my six year old son negotiate a game of tag with a new friend. Beyond a “bon giorno” and a cautious “hello,” the two children had little to discuss. But they were able to gesture and smile their way through a fairly recognizable game of tag (with my son’s new Italian friend sometimes hugging instead of simply tagging!). It reminded me that play is a language all its own, and it travels. The impulse to play is something that adults sometimes try to manage, promote and steer, but the desire to connect in un-productive leisure represents something more powerful than many adults can understand or facilitate. Play pushes its way through barriers of all sorts, including language barriers, to become the language itself.
  • They have the same Legos everywhere. Globalization and consumer culture are weighty issues—and ones that marketers often view very differently than the many critics who consider the loss of local flavor (in addition to many other potentially deleterious effects). But there was something amazing about the way that characters and properties bond children across the globe. Beyond Cartoonito’s decidedly dark rendition of Heidi, many of the shows on Italian TV were familiar to our kids. This universal culture might have its downsides—and in the least, suggests we should treat these ubiquitous exports as sacred symbols—but it also serves to make children comfortable across strange lands. When my son saw his favorite Legos in the window of a toy store in downtown Chiavari, he was home.
  • “New” can be nice. It could be these specific kids, or it could be this cohort of youth, but the differences in pizza, ice cream, language, and environment and even in other people didn’t seem to faze our young travelers. The excitement came from the same sources it typically did—from really, really good gelato. Or a particularly challenging playground bridge. Or that steep slide. But without making a big deal about what was different, our kids seemed to think that most things were pretty much the same. Kids are shockingly adaptable if we allow them to be. For all the concern that modern parents face about fixing schedules and helping children adjust to new experiences, kids not only survive but often thrive when they must encounter and integrate the “new.” It goes without saying that this is where learning and growth live—not just for kids, but for adults as well.

Tags: toys, food, travel, kids, play, parents, Youth, TV, culture, youth media, speaking

Making the The Ron Burgundy Approach Work for Youth

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 @ 01:08 PM

ron burgundy 2Fictional newscaster Ron Burgundy (played by comedian Will Ferrell) is all over the place these days. In recent weeks, he’s been selling Dodge Durangos, guest hosting the news in North Dakota, and interviewing Peyton Manning on ESPN. All of these appearances, done with complete earnest; are of course, in the service of stirring up excitement over Paramount’s upcoming Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

We’ve been admiring his antics and just dying for a chance to connect this clearly adult marketing campaign to a kid, tween and teen topic. On last week's Saturday Night Live, we thought we had our entry point (read: excuse!) when Will Ferrell interrupted One Direction.  But Ferrell only appeared as himself, not as Ron Burgundy.  Well, this really caught our attention and made us ask, "So, can youth marketers learn from the 'Ron Burgundy Approach?'"  Answer: Absolutely!  Here are just a few of our favorite lessons:

Ron doesn’t create culture, he’s capitalizes on it. As many youth brands have learned (the hard way), it’s difficult for a brand to become the center of youth’s attention. Ron Burgundy’s (Verified!) Twitter account is full of references to his public appearances, but also a few thoughts on Miley Cyrus.  He’s interviewed Peyton Manning during football season, (albeit asking him questions about his take on tacklers from the 70s). Instead of attempting to draw attention to himself through creating big events, he’s showing up in the spots where we’re already looking. Brands sometimes worry about being overshadowed by a bigger brand or event, but Burgundy shows that there’s a balance of showing up and breaking in to these existing situations that gets consumers paying attention. 

Ron respects his fans.  Ron isn’t only appearing in spaces of satire – he’s also willing to make waves in waters where he wouldn’t typically swim. Last week Emerson College’s School of Communication was renamed The Ron Burgundy School of Communication (for 24 hours). Burgundy spoke to students about the changes he was going make (everyone gets a car upon graduation) and the difficulties of reporting the facts of a story (Don’t have facts? Make something up). Burgundy might be showing up in big venues, but he’s not afraid to throw some memorable grassroots moments in the mix. AND, he recognizes that this kind of marketing requires give and take – make some noise and be generous with acknowledging those who buy in. Youth love stars who tweet the people who spoof them. They appreciate the back and forth (that only social media allows) when a star starts a meme and lets the fans take over. Youth love the juxtaposition of big stars in small places (remember kids often feel that their world is invisible, so showing that a star remembers the little guys goes a long way with youth).

Ron makes moments, not media buys.  Ron Burgundy’s campaign looks different than it did in 2004 because the social landscape has changed. Ron still shows up on TV – he’s not relying only on being “discovered” serendipitously. But importantly, he’s making moments that matter. Regardless of how much Paramount spend on ads, the views that Burgundy has gotten on YouTube, on replays, on clips, and shows have mattered more. Many youth brands worry that they don’t have budgets big enough for TV. But keep in mind that a great creative idea and clever execution can multiply your marketing.

Ron invites, he doesn’t exclude. Especially in youth culture, it’s easy to lose your audience by assuming they have more insider knowledge than they do. This is particularly true when your market is made up of multiple age groups. But you don’t have to know anything about Olympic Curling – or Burgundy himself - to find Ron Burgundy’s coverage of the Canadian Olympic Curling Finals funny—it just is.  Fans of the first Anchorman film can laugh along with teens and tweens who may be unfamiliar with Ron Burgundy.

Regardless of how this approach increases what were already sure to be sound box office sales, Ron Burgundy continues to provide an example for subverting typical advertising approaches. In the immortal words of Burgundy, “You stay classy, YouthBeat reader.”

Tags: youth research, movies, TV, culture

What Makes Masterchef Junior a Masterpiece?

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 02:36 PM

Masterchef Jr.Now that it’s over, it seems the right time to reflect upon the first season of Masterchef Junior Fox’s reality competition show might seem like an unexpected winner to some, but we could have predicted its power. In our second issue of the YouthBeat TrendSpotter, we listed “Kid Cuisine” as a sign of the times. We know that this cohort of youth have grown up with a greater interest in food than any before them. They are exposed to more cuisines, groomed with more refined palettes, and are increasingly indoctrinated that quality matters much more than quantity.

Still, when we saw Masterchef Junior heavily promoted on our On Demand menus, we were skeptical. Right before Masterchef Junior first aired, Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri hosted young chefs for a special episode of their own reality show, Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off. The results were hardly appetizing. We love kids of all kinds, but these young chefs preened for the camera. They seemed skilled, for sure, but they didn’t seem comparable to adults (and before Masterchef Junior, would we have expected them to be?). These young reality chefs seemed too contrived for kids to care about, and yet not interesting enough to engage adults. We were left feeling like we’d been hooked by a gimmick, with kids dangled as the bait.

But, perhaps due to professional integrity more than authentic interest, we tuned in for Masterchef Junior. We were on the lookout for the typical kid-in-adult-context pitfalls. Would they be overly precocious? Think National Spelling Bee, which we love once a year, but in weekly doses! Being out-spelled by a 12 year old is one thing, but how many adults would tune in to be “food-shamed”? And on the flipside, we feared the cloyingly sweet children that sometimes appear in shows made for adults but about kids. But the third possibility was truly the most terrifying: Gordon Ramsey of a show called Hell’s Kitchen would be a judge.

The result: a pleasant surprise. So what made this morsel a meal that “tastes like more”?

  1. Humble Pie. Time Magazine writer, James Poniewozik, contributed his list of five reasons why Masterchef Junior worked to the pile of rave reviews from critics. We’d like to borrow one of his sentiments here. In a culture in which adults often steal and stay in the spotlight based on bad behavior (MasterChef, Real Housewives of Anywhere, NFL bullies), we have come to expect shows studded with bullies. But in Masterchef Junior, even Gordon Ramsey minds his manners. More than that – he’s nice. All three judges are. And, there’s nothing more entertaining than watching someone who is sour turn sweet. All three judges treat the contestants with more than professional respect – they treat them like their children.
  2. Taking the Cake. It’s not an easy task to create a show in which the coaches are kind, but the competition is still sharp. And that’s what happens here. These kids come to cook, and the stakes are high – $100,000 for the winner. Not to mention a trophy, and we know how kids love trophies! But in Masterchef Junior, the challenges are real and the strategizing significant. One player has a “target” on his back throughout the competition, yet his cast mates continue to support and comfort him when his cake comes out less ideal than planned. This kind of drama makes for great co-viewing, as parents and youth get caught up in the competition.
  3. Kids’ Cup of Tea. One of the reasons why watching a program that subjects kids and tweens to such intense competition is something we can bear is that it’s crystal clear that these kids love it. They are engaged in what psychologist Mihaly Czikscentmihalyi refers to as “flow”: (to paraphrase) the experience of being so thoroughly immersed in an activity or pursuit that you lose all track of time. The youth participating in Masterchef Junior are clearly not just there because mom and dad signed them up. They are invested and intrinsically motivated in a way that allows them (and us) to tolerate critiques – because they are committed to mastery and perfection. Because this passion is theirs, we want to see where they take it. Their enthusiasm for their work is contagious, and it’s one of the keys to Masterchef Junior’s success.
  4. Surviving Spilled Milk. Even these culinary wizards make mistakes. Alexander, the series star right from the onset, mistakes sugar for flour. Parents and other adults suddenly feel less inadequate. As in adult competition shows, even the best and the brightest miscalculate, overreach, overcomplicate or underestimate sometimes. But what makes it different watching these kids is that we know how hard it is, and how important it is to foster resilience in youth. It’s the difference between successful, healthy children and those who are not, according to most psychologists. Call it bounce-back, GRIT, or even “Fishful Thinking” (as the Goldfish brand has), but however you label it, you know it when you see it. These kids not only recover, but they do so with determination, tenacity, and grace. We love these “characters” not only because they can cook – but because they keep going when it gets hot in the kitchen.
  5. Eating their Hearts Out. Finally, in a culture in which the relationship between kids and food has often been demonized, this show suggests that there’s a new way to frame it. Sure, kids are often known to gain joy from “junk” food, to indulge in insufficient fuel, but Masterchef Junior considers another possibility – can kids learn to love and respect food? Certainly, not every kid will become a foodie (no more than every adult has). Many critics of the show noted an over-representation of kids from California and New York City among the cast. But this show also makes it possible that kids might care about food. Perhaps giving them a bit more credit and some skills in the kitchen could help them get more curious about foods of all types (even the healthy stuff).

When it comes to this kids’ competition show, we suggest indulging, but also incorporating the lessons learned into the brands, products and content that you serve up to youth.

Tags: food, menu, reality tv, TV, culture

Children and the Call of the Wild

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 @ 01:53 PM

The start of summer seems to invoke images of childhood that may be more retro than real, but that certainly remind us of a childhood that’s free and sometimes even wild. Children have historically and socially been connected to nature. Children have often been positioned as “wild things,” in the romantic or problematic state before “civilization” sets in. Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods) contends that children have a need for, and an inclination towards nature is so significant that children who don’t encounter a bit of the wild in their daily lives suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” And Gail Melson explored children’s camaraderie with animals in Why the Wild Things Are. Google

So for today’s kids, tweens and teens, what’s wild about childhood?

Despite dwindling opportunities to trek through the forest or wade through streams, today’s families and youth often feel most at home in the outdoors. Many parents count camping, or even just running around outside as some of their favorite shared activities (even though they turn to tech when they need or just want it). Google’s “Camping” ad from last summer captured the way that today’s families integrate tech and nature (not choose between them). But aside from these structured and connected endeavors in the wild, youth have fewer and fewer chances to test themselves, discover the dangerous and cultivate a living thing the way perhaps we once did.

Still, evidence of the wild nature of children abounds! The last day of school might be followed up with a structured summer program experience. But for youth, the loosening of the reigns for a few months means possibility. Control and competence might be the ideals for today’s youth and parents, but parents still prioritize play places when buying or renting homes (from backyards to city playgrounds), and this generation of moms and dads often make vacations about the outdoors (even if it is a manicured beach!).

For marketers and experience providers, it’s important to both acknowledge children’s connection to the natural world, and to simultaneously refrain from judging the outdoors nearby. Their backyards can be bounties, and their neighborhoods can serve as important sites of identity exploration. Even adolescents somewhat risky reliance on the sequestered spaces of the woods in their town or the natural spaces in their cities can serve a purpose. Kids, tweens and teens require spaces that let them hide, sit in silence, and wander and find. Make it your summer resolution to find one way to help them.

In honor of what would have been Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday, which Google has honored with its own Wild Things signature, re-read our own take on the author of “Where the Wild Things Are”.

Tags: movies, free time, kids tweens teens, TV

Scripps’ Spell

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, May 30, 2013 @ 03:51 PM

Spelling BeeTonight at 8 pm, families around the country will turn on ESPN to watch a hard fought final among a group of seasoned competitors. They’ve trained, they’ve endured, and now they will spell. It’s the highly anticipated final round of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

What makes this event so mesmerizing?

  • Kids take center stage. Kids might have many opportunities to see themselves on television, but not often do they see a group of seemingly ordinary kids (not actors, not stage kids) rise to the occasion.
  • They all have a story...Just like Olympics coverage, which turns unknowns into bearers of epic narratives, the producers of the Scripps Spelling Bee showcase the heroic in its kid competitors, and importantly, its parent patrons.
  • Everyone has a shot. There’s no denying that the kind of perseverance and pure stamina required to learn so many words, and the ability to recall them from their memory on a stage gleaming with hot lights and audience feedback is a talent, the Scripps National Spelling Bee might make kids (and families) feel that anything is possible. Unlike athletes or singers that they’re used to seeing in the spotlight, these kids shine simply because they did their best – something parents promote and kids hope pays off the way they’ve been told it would. In a world in which sports have become more exclusive and elusive than ever, learning to spell seems possible regardless of a child’s shape or size.
  • It’s good clean fun. More and more, families seek out shows they can co-view together. Talent competitions have certainly scratched the itch for many…But they also include the risk of a rogue contestant who doesn’t take family entertainment to heart. And these marathon seasons require more commitment than many families can make. In one night, the Scripps National Spelling Bee captures the drama of an entire series. And what’s not to like about kids who have earned their way to the stage through studying…
  • There’s drama! Let’s be clear…Spelling wouldn’t be televised like a sporting event if there weren’t for some drama! The reality of the Scripps Spelling Bee makes it memorable and mesmerizing for parents and youth…These contestants will cheer, and probably shed a tear. Their precociousness will come off as endearing, and exhausting, sometimes in the same breath. And kids and parents will negotiate their understanding of these extraordinary kids together…

Tune in and let us know your favorite moments! We’ll be watching…

Tags: Education, youth research, TV, youth media, news

Phineas, Ferb and Old School Funny

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, May 06, 2013 @ 11:02 AM

Disney’s Phineas and Ferb may not have the power to unseat SpongeBob Squarepants as top cartoon, but the series and its title characters take the second spot to the porous perennial favorite. And while they might fall behind the lovable sponge from under the sea, Phineas and Ferb should hardly be seen as taking a backseat to anyone…

phineas y ferbPhineas and Ferb might be a relative new kid on the cartoon block, but its sensibilities stem from old school cartoons. But each cartoon convention gets a fresh twist in this show starring two boys whose faces defy a circular shape. First, it’s always summer vacation for Phineas and Ferb. Today’s elementary schoolers might be more likely to move from the school year to another structured setting (camps of all kinds, enrichment programs, etc.) but Phineas and Ferb fuel the fantasy of a summer day with nothing to do. They take the classic Rube Goldberg devices found in cartoons like Tom and Jerry and give them a playful purpose. Each plan comes from their own hands, and the intention is authentic entertainment, taken to the extreme – from a miniature golf course and an oversized roller coaster on their lawn to a backyard beach (complete with island music and an impromptu surf competition). Phineas and Ferb includes genuine good guys and bad guys, battling in each episode. But the evil Doctor Doofenshmirtz’s devices seem more likely to turn up on an infomercial than to truly help him take over the world! All the better for the young viewers who revel in seeing Doofenshmirtz’s silly plots get foiled by the unlikeliest of heroes, Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus, Perry. (The popular platypus served as the front man for the app “Where’s My Perry?” a version of the popular app, “Where’s My Water?” Phineas and Ferb include sibling rivalries, with big sister Candace constantly trying to catch her scheming little brothers in the act. But unexpectedly, the two step-brothers who star in this show seek to include Candace (along with the other members of their eclectic gang). Phineas and Ferb works because kids route for them, but not because they’re bad – because they’re just so good. And as an added bonus for mom and dad, Phineas and Ferb exemplify the kind of creative, constructive play that gets mom and dad’s approval.

The show follows a formula that delivers on the “I knew it was going to happen” that kids love, like when someone asks the boys if they aren’t too young to be a rollercoaster engineer, for example. Each episode includes a song and dance that allows for a silly segue to the next scene. But the predictable plotlines include enough imagination to make each episode feel like an adventure. At the end of each simulated summer vacation day, it’s the boys’ preposterous planning and casual cool that make this cartoon a modern makeover of the classic toons of the past.

Tags: play, digital drugs, TV, youth media

Satisfying Superfans: Breaking Down the “Bronies” Phenomenon

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Apr 05, 2013 @ 01:32 PM

My Little PonyTurn on the Hub, and you’re likely to recognize a number of properties that were important in your own youth. My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic is just one of the old-school toys that’s received a refresh from Hasbro’s “The Hub” TV network. And while every cohort of little girls seems to love ponies, kids and tweens aren’t solely responsible for this show’s popularity. Meet the “Bronies.” 

According to, “Bronies” was coined on 4chan's /co/ board as a term used to describe the mainly teenage and older, often male fans of My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic. 4chan provides the following sample dialogue between Bronies:

Brony A: “Dude, just finished watching the first season from MLP:FiM!”
Brony B: “Cool! So who do you think is the best pony?”

Brony A mentions the pony they think is best. Brony B agrees and exclaims: “Brohoof!”  The “Bronies Brohoof” is similar to a high five.

These superfans have their own signature MO, interrupting conversations on message boards in an attempt to change the conversation to one about unicorns and pink horses. But according to Angela Watercutter of Wired, this type of affinity might be more sincere than subversive.  Watercutter coined the term “neo-sincerity” back in 2010 to describe a shift away from seeing irony in everything to sincerely appreciating the sentimental.

So what’s a youth brand to do with these vocal superfans, especially those whose fandom might be interpreted as bad behavior (or at least an unwelcomed annoyance) by some?

  • First, say thank you. It might make sense to be suspicious of the taste of superfans, but in most cases, they’re responding to something that seems authentic, complex and unique in your property. Find out what they appreciate and see if it helps you understand the specifics behind your success.
  • Second, keep your eye on the prize. Superfans often relish in a sense of discovery; your primary target or audience might expect you to speak more directly to them. Superfans might provide some insight and inspiration, but don’t let them silence your main target.
  • Finally, have fun! It’s okay to acknowledge these superfans and to build on the buzz that their unconventional attention garners for your brand, product or property.

Tags: youth research, play, kids tweens teens, TV