Insights on Indian kids

03Mar04

After adults and teenagers, it is now the turn of children…. To be researched as ‘consumers’. O&M India’s knowledge management unit, Ogilvy Discovery recently conducted a national-level study on Indian children in the 4-to-12-years age group. The aim of the study was to understand the pressures and motivations of Indian children, and glean implications for brands and communication.

As such, children are very difficult to research, given that they cannot be studied in an artificial research environment, the way adults can. Conventional research tools such as focus groups and interviews would provide limited information and certainly no meaningful insights.

This study used an interesting mix of methodologies to gain glimpses into the lives of children. Observations, interviews with parents, teachers and child psychologists, conversations with children, focus groups with kids, media ethnology (there is that much abused term again) of children’s magazines, comics and television commercials, and scrapbook exercises.

Given that children are increasingly becoming influencers and even decision-makers within the household, such a study is bound to throw up interesting findings for advertisers and marketers. Some dominant themes that emerged from the study were : Rushed-Regimented Childhood, Death of Delayed Gratification, Poor and Selective Socialization, Weaker Sibling Bonding, Outdoors – Out of the front door, Retracing Culture with Grandparents, Fathers Tending to be Mothers and The Character Rage. For a better understanding of these, read the report.

What I find interesting is that such studies are more and more moving away from traditional research methods and attempting the uncharted.

At the same time, very often, findings from such studies, despite their fancy themes and names (Character Rage, for instance) tend to be at some level intuitive and obvious. With all these research techniques and skills, is this the best O&M can offer : children are being regimented by their parents, they do not go out to play as much as children used to, fathers are participating in the nurturing role…. and so on….

This trend of ‘techniques for the sake of techniques’ is disturbing; methodology has become a cutting-edge selling point for agencies involved in research. You do focus groups; I do one better, I do focus workshops….. that kind of thing…. Media ethnology???

One more thing, I would be interested in also understanding the source of such behaviour / themes in the lives of children. Viz. motivators and influences. Again, chicken and eggishly, what is the cause and what is the effect here ? Who came first : the advertiser or the audience ? Is media (cinema and advertising included) about cultivation or about representation? In other words, do ads portray such attitudes, symbols and rituals because the Indian kid is like that…. Or is he that way because he is influenced by the advertising he is exposed to ?

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