Aleksia Dobrich is a Social Manager for OMD Create Sydney, navigating the world of social influence and content to help clients deliver on their business challenges.
Influencer marketing continues to be a hot topic, with news stories of both negative and positive brand experiences continuing to emerge in the media. From makeup tutorials to travel tips and even the iconic Fyre Festival, influencers are so engrained in not only media and marketing activity, but also our daily lives. Influencers, in one form or another, have been used to promote products for decades. From George Clooney for Nespresso to LeBron James for Nike, influencers, celebrities or known personalities have been used to give credibility to branded messages. But what about our younger audience, kids? Across the globe we are seeing an influx of stars with 1+ million followers that haven’t even left school yet.
Social Media Usage
The high use of social media by kids and teens, particularly on YouTube, cannot be overlooked. eMarketer have noted that 67% of 10- to 12-year old are YouTube users and that YouTube is identified as the number one brand among kids aged 6-12 years, ahead of iconic global brands including LEGO and Toys R Us
As a result of the sheer number of children on this channel, kids now form a major marketing segment for many big-name brands. Brands including Hasbro, Mattel and LEGO leverage this by aligning their products with an influencer who is relatable and likeable in order to sell a product. For these brands, kid influencers fit the mould perfectly. Brands need to ensure they spend their marketing budgets on channels that their audience is natively spending their time. In the case of these three toy brands, YouTube is that channel.
According to Brandwatch’s 2019 report on YouTube statistics, LEGO is the most popular branded channel, accumulating more than 6 billion views on their content. When looking at their content, it includes both a mix of animated LEGO characters and influencer content, allowing the brand to be relatable and authentic in a way traditional advertising can’t be.
Kid Influencers How much influence can a kid really have?
Totally Awesome’s 2018 Kids Digital Insights Study highlights that 52% of APAC kids have purchased a product because an influencer has it or has used it. This is indicative of the influence and power these young individuals have over their audiences. According to the Forbes Highest-Paid YouTube Stars of 2018, the highest paid influencer was 7-year old Ryan from Ryan ToysReview with an earnings estimate of USD$22 million. He loves LEGO, cars and trains, and so do his 17 million subscribers.
Within Australia, the largest YouTube account is owned by 8-year old Calvin from CKN Toys, with more than 11 million subscribers and growing. With these subscriber numbers, it’s clear that there is definitely a place (and desire) for these kid influencers.
How do brands engage kid influencers
Major brands securing partnerships with kid influencers for big budgets has raised some ethical questions surrounding the industry. Parents don’t like it when children are hired for profit, despite a growing social acceptance of kid influencers. This form of advertising is becoming more normalised and accepted, however, in an attempt to protect children from unsafe or negative content, parents regulate the amount and type of content that is consumed.
As with any influencer, kid influencers must comply with advertising laws and other industry regulations that are there to keep both children and consumers protected.
Within Australia, all forms of media have industry codes in place that relate to advertising and marketing to children. These include the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics and AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children. The industry’s codes are ultimately self-regulated and rely on advertisers to adhere to the sets of rules and principles in good faith and with honesty. If any of these guidelines are not adhered to, consumers can submit a complaint to AANA where a review is conducted by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ABS).
Overall, the key areas to note for brands when engaging kid influencers are:
Understand local market regulations: It is crucial for brands to understand regulations surrounding advertising to children to ensure all content complies. The guidelines surrounding the code of practice is outlined in the AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children6. The responsibility lies on the brand who should be responsible for the content that is created by any influencer.
Clear disclosures: Brands need to ensure that any sponsored or ad content with influencers complies with the Australian Association of National Advertisers Clearly Distinguishable Advertising Best Practice Guidelines. This means that influencers need to clearly disclose if any content is sponsored and by whom.
Family-friendly content: Sponsored content must be suitable for the whole family and shouldn’t promote ‘adult’ content to children.
Consider parent views: Both children and their parents fall into the demographics engaging with kid influencer content. It is important for brands to keep parents in mind when working with kid influencers to produce content, and to ultimately create family-friendly content.
The use of influencers, celebrities or known personalities, no matter their age, will continue to be used by brands to promote their products with the landscape and means of doing so changing over time and continuing to evolve. What has become clear is that kid influencers offer a way for brands to reach a very niche and specific audience and with Australian influencers, such as CKN Toys and The Norris Nuts offering a combined potential reach of 12.8 million, it won’t be long before more brands consider the role they can play in reaching youth audiences.