Kids these days are pretty savvy. Having been raised with iPads and Instagram, you can’t just throw a rubber ducky in their laps and expect them to be entertained. Children demand a lot from the products they use and love. And that’s why you must start designing for kids if you want to build a compelling brand.
Kid-centered brands run the gamut from toys to music to food to clothing… But no matter what kind of business you’ve got going on, remember that branding and design strategies that are a slam dunk with adults might not be the best fit for the munchkins. When it comes to marketing to kids, less nuance is more. Show them why you’re awesome, and show them in a big way.
Let’s look at our top three tips for designing for kids that will turn your product into the 21st century version of POGs, Cabbage Patch Dolls and Tamagotchi.
3 tips for designing for kids
1. Let cartoon characters be the face of your brand
There’s no arguing the fact that cartoons are pretty much universally appealing to children. But kids love for all-things-animated extends beyond their favorite Nickelodeon and Disney cartoons. It works just as well for kid-focused brands.
By incorporating a character or mascot into your design and branding, you can strengthen children’s connection to your product. Characters add a face to your brand and a serious dose of personality that will make your brand far more memorable than any product ever could.
Just look at Mario. When Nintendo was getting ready to launch in America, pretty much everyone thought video games were over. After the initial success of Atari, too many companies jumped on the bandwagon, flooding the market with terrible systems and games and causing what’s now known as the video game crash of 1983. But Nintendo had a secret up their sleeve in a form of a soon-to-be-beloved character.
After a soft launch in 1985, Nintendo started bundling their Nintendo Entertainment System with a Super Mario Bros. cartridge. They tied their entire brand to the little plumber in overalls fighting to save the princess. And it’s a strategy that paid off in a major way. The NES became a huge success, single handedly reviving the video game industry, and Super Mario Bros. became it’s best selling title, selling a whopping 40 million copies.
More than 30 years later, Mario is still the face of Nintendo and is still connecting with children (and adults, let’s be honest) all over the world.
Or what about McDonald’s? They used their Ronald McDonald character as a way to connect with kids and make their branding more accessible to a younger set, and while plenty of parents think it’s unethical to market fast food to children, there’s no arguing that it was a successful strategy (in a 2010 study of brand recognition in children, McDonald’s was the overwhelming winner, with 93% of children surveyed recognizing the fast food joint—with many able to identify the Ronald McDonald character by just his legs and feet alone).
Same thing for children’s party company Little Possum Parties. Their character-based logo, which features cartoon depictions of two kids and a possum enjoying a party, creates an immediate connection with the little ones their targeting.
That fun logo for educational toy company Clever Cranium? The designer’s smarty-pants brain character is front and center. And the turtle from Turtel slides down the letter “R” to make this branding more relatable for the little ones.
2. It’s all about color
Childhood is a colorful time—and we don’t just mean that metaphorically. When you think of the colors associated with childhood, what comes to mind? Is it beige, navy, or gray?
Of course not. If you want your branding and designs to speak to kids, you need to harness the magic of the rainbow.
Bright colors and children’s brands go hand-in-hand. Kids are attracted to the most vibrant colors of the color wheel as opposed to muted or neutral tones. Primary colors (like red, yellow, and blue) or secondary colors (like orange, green, and purple) are going to be much more attention-grabbing to a younger crowd than brown or a muted shade of pink.
Just look at the packaging for L’Oreal kids shampoos. And the Tickle Me Elmo Doll by toy powerhouse Playskool.
Or this packaging for Brainy Baby Foods.
Are you noticing a theme?
The fact that each of these packs a serious punch of color is no accident. If you’re trying to market your designs to children, you need to give them what they want—and that’s a whole lotta color.
3. It’s not just about the kids. It’s about parents, too!
When you’re building a kid-centric brand, obviously it’s important to focus on the kids.
But remember—it’s not just about the kids. It’s about their parents, too.
No matter how kid-focused your business or product is, five-year-olds won’t be whipping out their wallets to make a purchase. Their parents will. And if your branding and design falls flat with Mom or Dad, your business will suffer.
The key? Build your brand in a way that connects with both parent and child. It’s tricky, but it can be done.
Let’s use Melissa and Doug as an example. Melissa and Doug is a mega-popular children’s toy company that believes play should promote creativity, passion, and problem-solving—and as such, they kick it old school by creating toys that encourage children to use their imagination (no electronics here!). Their hashtag, #TakeBackChildhood, is the perfect description of their nostalgic-but-fresh line of playthings.
Their website is the perfect example of branding and design that appeals to both little ones and their parents. The bright colors, whimsical fonts, and fun product images (how adorable are those puppets?!) make it clear that their brand is kid-focused.
But their simple layout, clean design and focus on their corporate mission appeals to parents.
It’s a win-win. Their overall branding and website design works for the children they’re creating products for and the parents responsible for making the purchase.
Same thing here with Little Monsters. The design for this children’s sports program did a great job adding design elements that appeal to children (like the waving monster character and fun pops of color) while also designing in a way that draws in parents (specifically by focusing on the “enhance your child’s early learning” messaging).
Moral of the story: when you’re building a brand that’s targeting towards children, definitely design with the kiddos in mind—but don’t forget it’s the parents who are the ones making the buying decisions.
Get out there and play!
Branding any business is tough. Kid-focused businesses can be especially challenging. But now that you have these tips, you have everything you need to knock it out of the park and start designing for kids. We’re pretty sure they’ll love it just as much as candy, Nickelodeon, and fidget spinners. Get ready to hang with the cool kids!