Q. We have a great toy concept that we think appeals to kids of all ages—what are the advantages and disadvantages of targeting a large consumer segment like Kids 3+.
A. In my experience working with entrepreneurs, one of the biggest issues I see on a regular basis is target audience definition. Most entrepreneurs tend to think their concept appeals to an over-broad segment of the consumer base—Kids 3+ for example.
First, its important to acknowledge that age grading—based on safety testing guidelines—is NOT your target consumer. Just because your product is safe for Kids aged 3+, that doesn’t mean that Kids 3+ should be your target audience.
In the U.S., for example, we have roughly 4 million kids per year of age—approximately 2 million girls and 2 million boys are born each year. One approach to consumer targeting that appears attractive at first blush is that the larger the target audience, the larger the business opportunity. The problem with this is two-fold:
1) Kids of different ages have different play urges—the more you zero in on the right target, the better your odds of success in delivering appeal and appropriate ergonomics. Based on brain development—and purchase patterns in the industry--the age segmentation that defines clear play preferences are as follows:
· Infants 0-12 months
· Toddlers 12-24 months
· Preschoolers 2-3 years
· Core Toy Buyers 3-6 years ( the bulk of the volume)
· Older Kids 6-8 years
· Tweens 8-12 years
It is possible for big strong brands to span multiple age segments, especially if they actively work to do so. For example, Paw Patrol® can span older Toddlers, Preschoolers and younger Core Toy Buyers with a range of offerings. Barbie® can span older Preschoolers, Core Toy Buyers, and the younger segment of Older Kids with a range of different products.
2) Marketing considerations affect how well you reach and influence kids of different ages. The casting, messaging sophistication, media choices all play into this dynamic. Typically we cast 2-3 years older than the true play target—to ensure the casting is appropriately aspirational. Programming that appeals largely to 3 year-olds will likely leave a 7 year old cold. That 7 year- old is eager to leave “childish thing”’ behind.
Your target consumer definition is one of the most important decisions you will make…don’t punt!