9 Things Kids Can Tell Us About Marketing

Mike McDonald
Mike McDonald
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Marketing is a comprehensive practice that combines strategic planning, clear communication, and a keen understanding of your audience to develop effective campaigns. Throw in consideration of your costs, available resources, audience demographics, and a willingness to change and adapt as you watch your strategy unfold, and you have the basics of what is required for just about any marketing undertaking. 

These are also the core components of another challenging, rewarding, and sometimes altogether frustrating endeavor: communicating with kids

We can learn a lot from the young rookie communicators in our lives. Here are a few areas of marketing that can benefit from looking at them through the same lens as our interactions with kids: 

Everyone wants to be heard

Sometimes all we really want is to know that our voices are being heard. When we are having a frustrating experience with a product or service, simply knowing that someone is available and willing to hear our complaints and help walk us through a solution is enough to salvage a positive perception of a brand. 

This is true in both marketing and in our dealings with kids. A frustrating moment can be exacerbated by a lack of ability to express how we feel about the situation, often because we can’t reach someone who can help or explain the details of the problem. 

Be available to hear from the customers (and kids) in your life. If someone feels like they have no voice in the matter, it can make a frustrating situation exponentially worse. Kids need quick and easy access to adults who can hear them out and sometimes help them solve a problem. Marketers should hold themselves to the same standard. Be available to your customers and clients, give them easily accessible lines of communication to reach you and be ready to respond to problems with clear and actionable solutions. 

Communication Can be a Challenge

Kids sometimes struggle to use their words effectively. Finding the right word or phrase to express a specific emotion, feeling, or idea can be tricky for young speakers who are just learning to navigate their vocabulary. Moments of frustration or stress make word choices even harder to resolve. Adults, meanwhile, are challenged to teach children how to navigate life by explaining everything in detail but at a language level that is appropriate and understandable for everyone involved. Often, this involves covering topics that we never expected to have to explain to anyone, such as how it’s not a great idea to eat glue. 

The problem of knowing what we want to say but not how to say it transcends age and maturity. In marketing, we might be challenged with describing a product we know to be useful but struggle to find the right words to convey that message to customers. It’s not enough to run an ad that simply says, “Our product is great!” Customers need to know why it’s great, what makes it unique, and how it will help them do things better than if they were to choose a different product. 

For kids and adults alike, the solution is often to turn to the people around you to help you find the right words to say what you want to say. Kids lean on the adults in their lives to help them learn new ways to express themselves verbally, while marketing teams and the companies they work with rely on each other to work through the many different ways that a marketing message can be crafted, finding the best solution that speaks clearly and effectively to customers. 

Connect the Dots Your Own Way

Kids have an uncanny ability to find connections between things that adults will just never see. And often, they can make those connections surprisingly fast. Young minds aren’t limited by decades of living in a society where order and organization are essential to keeping day-to-day life moving along as smoothly as possible. 

Sometimes, kids can see an entirely different picture in those dots and tell a story that no adult would have ever seen coming. 

Letting go of preconceived notions about a topic and allowing ourselves and our imaginations to paint an entirely unexpected picture can be the catalyst for a marketing campaign that gets people talking. Find the picture in the dots that no one else sees, and build your campaign around something unexpected and memorable. 

Learn to Adapt

The customers you are targeting today might not be the same customers you will target in future campaigns. Marketing gives us the opportunity to analyze previous efforts and develop new strategies for subsequent campaigns, which sometimes means pivoting to a new audience or a different customer demographic. 

Kids change and grow over time, along with their preferences and interests. Many parents have accumulated boxes of toys and sports gear that once were the most important objects in their children’s lives but now collect dust in the attic. 

Customers can also change their views about your products or services. What worked before might not work again as customers change and evolve. Be prepared to grow with them, and adapt your marketing efforts to reach them where they are now. If the cost of goods is a growing concern for your customers, consider using marketing messaging to let them know what you are doing to lower your costs or find more affordable suppliers and vendors. 

Responding to Emotional Feedback

Here on the Barn of Brands Blog, we have previously written about the true fans of your brand, your most passionate customers who follow your company’s progress and cheer on your successes. Customers can sometimes have a lot to say about what you do, the products or services you offer, and how they view your brand. They are speaking from an emotional point of view, one that can help inform your brand strategy in the future or help to fix things that need improvement.

Our challenge is to see past the emotion, identify the pain points, and understand what customers are really asking for.

When it comes from your most ardent fans, emotional feedback can sometimes come in the form of excitement, anger, sadness, or frustration, and we need to interpret that feedback to get to the root of the issue. Much like how it takes a bit of work to sometimes decipher the emotional feedback we get from kids, especially the really young ones. 

Learning how to extract actionable data from customer feedback is key to developing improved strategies in the future. Our challenge is to see past the emotion, identify the pain points, and understand what customers are really asking for.

Don’t Over-Promise

Nothing saddens a child quite like the promise of something fun, followed by the disappointment of that promise not being fulfilled. It happens, and often it’s not anyone’s fault. The new toy they wanted sold out in minutes, the exhibit at the zoo they were excited to see is temporarily closed, or there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get to all of the fun things we had hoped we could do.

In marketing and advertising, we never want customers to feel like they got less than they expected. Bringing them all the way through the sales funnel and then, at the last minute, leaving them feeling like their experience didn’t live up to expectations could turn them from fans of your brand into skeptics of what you offer them in the future. 

Clear and understandable marketing messages that leave little room for unfulfilled promises is crucial in setting expectations and outlining what customers can expect from you. Don’t let your ad campaigns or promotional materials oversell the offer. Be clear in listing key features or the functionality of a product or service, along with the terms of your offer, any pricing details, as well as any added incentives or limitations.

Trust the Experts Around You

The “it takes a village…” mantra has never been more true, both in raising kids and in marketing. With kids, we rely on public resources to help them become the best versions of themselves and grow up to contribute positively to society. We seek out the expert advice of doctors to keep kids healthy, teachers to educate them, and coaches to help them develop positive habits and lessons found in sports. 

Marketing campaigns are often team efforts, too. Your village can be the people on your immediate team and also the resources you add to fill in any gaps or round out the campaign effort. It might include subject matter strategists who can help you refine your overall approach or creative specialists who will help bring the campaign to life across the different media channels you will be utilizing. 

Routines Matter

A routine bedtime isn’t just good for kids. Adults can set healthy sleep patterns in their lives to maximize their ability to do their jobs and stay focused throughout the day. 

And like the many other routines that kids follow, from school schedules to meals to dedicated homework time, setting up routines in our marketing campaigns and workflows can keep us focused and make sure that customers are regularly engaging with current messaging and content.  

Be consistent. Routines in marketing mean that we are consciously bringing consistent messaging, design, functionality, and quality standards through to every customer touch point. 

Be Fearless and Get Messy

Kids embrace chaos in their lives. Sometimes, their most memorable moments occur while they are at their wildest and messiest. They are able to push fear aside and jump head-first into things that adults would avoid. Things like playing in mud or finger painting are throw-caution-to-the-wind activities that kids seek out and thrive on.

Marketing campaigns, like all creative endeavors, can sometimes benefit from allowing things to get a little messy during the creative process.

While a measured and strategic approach to marketing is often the preferred path to follow, we can inject new life and excitement into a campaign by employing a more free-spirited creative strategy (in moderation, of course). When standard headlines don’t seem to be inspiring your customers anymore, try a bolder statement. Surprise your customers and get your team out of their comfort zone. Marketing campaigns, like all creative endeavors, can sometimes benefit from allowing things to get a little messy during the creative process. 


There are tried and true methods for effective marketing that we will always employ in our work, but much like our pint-sized protégés, we also sometimes have to be willing to get out of our comfort zones in order to grow. 

Kids spend far more time than adults in these uncomfortable spaces because so many things are new to them, but they are also shining examples of what can happen when we regularly venture into unfamiliar territory, experiment with our communication strategies, and allow a bit of chaos and mess into our lives. 

Being aware of the daily challenges we can expect to face in developing marketing campaigns and communicating with customers gives us the perspective needed to better adapt to the ever-changing needs and goals of our clients. It also gives us the opportunity to do something that kids constantly have the upper hand in: Finding the fun in everything we do!