Kids Brand Insight We're a leading Consultancy to the global kids entertainment and toy industries. We help toy companies get ahead, and kids content producers maximise their toy merchandising. We conduct commercially minded consumer research to support and guide our clients decision making.

The Consumer Formula For Compelling Kids Entertainment Content Hasn’t Changed In 15 Years…

Posted in Uncategorized on 03 October 2014

The Formula For Compelling Kids Entertainment Content Hasn’t Changed In 15 Years…

We attended a pitch meeting this week where a (prospective!) client asked us how kids had changed since we conducted our first kids research back in 1998.

That’s one of those questions where you have to stop and think for a moment before answering. Because a lot of water passes under the bridge in that amount of time.

But in the end, although we could highlight revolutionary changes in terms of media and platforms, and to a degree therefore habits, the factors which make one content iteration compelling and another as dull as dishwater actually hadn’t changed significantly.

Here’s several factors which are the same now as they were back in 1998:

1. Aspirational Characters Are Essential – it’s essential that characters are aspirational for children in terms of fictional/fantasy based properties. While the more cynical reader may link this to the obvious positive impact on merchandise sales, the reality is that aspirational characters drive greater word of mouth, create more caché and positively contribute to both initial success and longevity.

2. Content Needs To Be Continually Compelling And Immersive – the moment a TV show, movie etc. lags, the more likely it is children will become distracted and switch over, off, do something else. When we first researched kids entertainment the alternatives were a little different – you’d have been likely to see children switching on the Playstation (PS1) or N64 console versus nowadays where the child might be viewing via tablet, and might switch over to games on the tablet itself. Nevertheless, content targeting children should avoid having dull periods of lag time when not much happens and attention wavers.

Way back in time when we were testing PS1 games, we noticed that the refreshments available to young respondents disappeared more/more quickly at certain points in the game where a game was basically performing well, or at all points if the game was crap. From this we developed a new tool allowing us to gauge both ongoing appeal and constancy of immersion via measuring chocolate biscuit consumption/cake eating during testing sessions!

3. Themes/Concepts Must Be Appropriate For The Target Age Group – the best example we can find of where someone got this really wrong is a project we conducted some time ago, where we tested the new TV ad for a long running kids entertainment brand. The premise of the new ad seemed very clever in a tricksy/subtle way to both the ad agency and the brand team, alas the point was completely lost/irrelevant to the target age group. In fact the message could have worked for an audience of 5 years older, but for the target market the concept of the ad was inappropriate and therefore not compelling/motivating. If only they’d tested the TVC first, they’d have saved over £100k in production budget that was wasted, and £millions in media.

Exactly the same principle applies to entertainment content – understanding the mindset and developmental stage of the target market is fundamentally important to avoid wasting £millions in production on content that misses the mark.

4. Getting The Gender Positioning Right Is Still Critical – boys will still dismiss something ‘as for girls, yuck’, same as 15 years ago. Girls will still label something as ‘for boys’ because it’s too violent. Not all boys and girls, but an overwhelming majority. We could argue ad infinitum whether this is truly how they feel or how society/parents etc. inadvertently condition them to respond but the reality is that the same gender generalisations/stereotypes offer the least risky path in commercial terms today as they did 15 years ago.

5. Kids Love Humour, And What’s Funny Hasn’t Really Changed – kids love funny TV shows, they love to laugh. Gross, disgusting things are funny, people acting silly is funny, animals can be funny, smart alec script lines are funny, kids getting one over on adults is still funny and so basically not a lot has changed in 15 years. Kids loved The Simpsons 15 years ago, and they still love The Simpsons today.

Back in 1998, future watchers predicted device ‘convergence’ and ‘mobilisation’ – well we certainly got all that in the meantime, but even though this has lead to some significant changes in terms of consumption – double/triple screening etc., the fundamentals of the formula for compelling entertainment for kids has actually not changed that significantly in the meantime.

The next blog post will look at what’s changed in toys over the past 15 years from a consumer perspective…

P.S. if you found this article useful/informative, feel free to enter your details in the form on the right hand side of this page to receive our Free e-newsletters.

P.P.S. We run ad hoc research projects for a range of clients – from TV companies to networks, movie studios, toy companies, gaming companies and more. If you’d like us to test your content/brands, just drop us a line. Research projects typically cost from £4-20k depending on the complexity of what needs to be tested/the consumer segments. We also run an ongoing Qualitative omnibus research program offering a budget entry point – for more information on that please click here:

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KIDSPLAYTEST™ – OCTOBER 2014 Research Session

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 September 2014

KIDSPLAYTEST™ – OCTOBER 2014 Research Session

KIDSPLAYTEST™ offers a budget research service to companies in the kids entertainment space. We regularly test toys, games, apps, TV/film content and anything else in this area.

The main concept behind this proprietary methodology is to deliver commercially savvy consumer insight at an amazingly affordable price. By testing several concepts/content iterations during the same session we can deliver strong insight and consumer feedback for significantly less than a standard research project.

This method is not suitable for complicated products or for complex issues, as it’s more about getting a thumbs up or thumbs down from your target market, but we do also conduct more in depth research projects as instructed by clients using various qualitative methodologies.

The October session for KIDSPLAYTEST™ offers maximum 4 slots, with one having already been sold, so if you would like us to test your product/concept/content, please book asap to avoid disappointment.

For more details / to book, please click here: 

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Toy & Game Inventors Workshop – Chairing A Retail & Consumer Panel

Posted in Uncategorized on 22 September 2014

Retail & Consumer Panel Image

Our CEO, Steve Reece, recently chaired a panel at the inaugral Toy & Game Inventors Workshop, run by leading Toy industry trade magazine, Toy News.

The panel looked at the toy & board game businesses from both a retail and consumer perspective. Steve and his fellow panelists were able to robustly answer even the wildest, most tangential questions from the audience!

Based on our extensive experience of testing toys, games and kids entertainment content with children, we were invited to take the hot seat for this panel at a new, but nevertheless prestigious event, with many representatives from the ‘cognoscenti’ of the UK toy trade in attendance.

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Understanding Consumer Drivers Of The Loom Band Craze – Consumer Research Report

Posted in Uncategorized on 22 July 2014

Dissecting Consumer Drivers Of The Loom Band Craze – Consumer Research Report

We recently conducted a study into consumer drivers/motivators relating to the massive hit craze of loom bands. This craze has swept the UK toy market this year.

This is far from the first such craze we have researched – going back as far as Pokemon cards, we have often and routinely tested collectable/pocket money toy crazes.

Usually we can see consistent drivers from one craze to the next, however we discovered some interesting differences with loom bands, which are highlighted in the research findings presentation available below.

The research was conducted using our proprietary methodology – KIDSPLAYTEST™ – for more information:


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BBC Radio Interview With Steve – Explaining Frozen Toy Shortage

Posted in Uncategorized on 08 July 2014

BBC Radio Interview With Steve – Explaining Frozen Toy Shortage

Kids Brand Insight CEO Steve Reece, as an acknowledged toy and kids entertainment industry expert, was recently interviewed by Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live as part of a piece looking at the current shortage of Frozen toys and merchandise.

Steve was pleased to give an industry perspective on the shortage, and to be given the chance to act as a de facto spokesperson for the toy & kids entertainment industries in order to ensure the industry was portrayed fairly.

To listen to the interview, just click play below…


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6 Reasons Why New Kids Animated TV Properties Should Always Be Audience Tested…

Posted in Uncategorized on 24 June 2014

6 Reasons Why New Kids Animated TV Properties Should Be Audience Tested…

Producing animated content is not a cheap business. In fact it’s an inherently expensive and risky process.

The need to validate / reduce risk with a new cartoon series is one of the primary drivers for commissioning qualitative research with children. We’ve conducted dozens of research projects assessing entertainment content with this target audience, and literally every time we have tested, the findings have delivered significant insight which either gave the client the peace of mind / ammunition to proceed, suggested tweaks and changes (from light to fundamental) through to advising clients to bin the project and start again. The fact that these clients have come back to us on future projects suggests our findings were on the ball.

So here’s 6 ways that audience research can help TV production companies:

1. Validate basic concept – the start point for all research has to be is there any appeal in the basic concept itself, because if there isn’t, then there is little point proceeding further.

2. Test Characters And Character Balance – sometimes consumer research with kids reveals unpopular characters, highlights secondary characters with the potential to be leading stars or finds an imbalance in the overall character mix. Needless to say, finding out this information comparatively early in the production process can make a huge difference in terms of the potential success of the show.

3. Reveal Inbuilt Or Identify Potential Viral Factors – encouraging word of mouth is a critical part of the formula when it comes to children’s TV. The social environment of the playground can be a strong driver of interest in new programming. Qualitative research with kids is often very effective in terms of finding the key discussion points in content – whether it be a particular gadget, move, saying or something else.

4. Identify Lulls In The Action – one of the major channel changing drivers is a lull in the entertainment/engagement level during a program. Broadcasters are obviously not very interested in shows which are only partially/occasionally entertaining/engaging. With commercial TV, you really need to bring the viewer back after the ad break to succeed. We’ve been using a couple of proprietary testing methodologies for more than 15 years to test for this factor.

5. More Clearly Identify Consumer Target – we often conceive and produce based on subjective presumptions of what boys & girls want, or of what children at a certain age like. The reality is that while there are some un-bendable ‘rules’ when it comes to each consumer segment, there is also a myriad of other apparently minor factors which can make a huge difference to how suitable TV content is for the targeted audience.

6. Identify & Maximise Licensing And Merchandising Opportunities – we routinely identify opportunities for TV companies to significantly increase the merchandising opportunity for their property/ies. For example, on a recent project, we identified 2 missing components, which potentially left 25% of the opportunity out of the reckoning. By making comparatively simple amendments we can directly attribute a quantifiable positive impact of the research project we conducted!


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Kids Entertainment Brands & Embracing Pester Power …

Posted in Uncategorized on 16 June 2014

Kids Entertainment Brands & Embracing Pester Power

The term ‘Pester Power’ has been used for decades to describe the persistent pestering approach which children adopt when seeking to persuade their parent/s to purchase something they want for them.

Anyone reading this with their own children will know the power of persistent pestering! For those without, if you imagine the most persistent old school sales person you’ve ever encountered – some one who just won’t go away/take no for an answer regardless of how strictly you tell them no, then you’re probably getting to a fraction of what parents constantly experience on a daily and ongoing basis.

Commercially speaking, toy/entertainment brands targeting children benefit from this when they become highly desired. In effect, where a child has a strong desire to own/consume something, pester power becomes a strong driving factor which brands can benefit from. If we put aside the ethical debate about advertising to children/how far brands should go to encourage this, our research (hundreds of children and families recently interviewed) suggests certain key factors/realities that brands need to be aware of:

1. Pester Power remains really effective – while the expression may be as old as the hills, as highlighted above, this effect is still very powerful. Regardless of what trends you read about, or what some commentators may suggest, this isn’t going away. Pester Power remains as powerful an influence on purchasing as ever based on our research. What we have seen though over time is an increase in the number of tactics used by parents to deal with demanding offspring!

2. Down trading – parents often use the approach of ‘down trading’ whereby they set price/scope limits on what the child can have. The psychology behind this is insightful – it allows the adult to give in to the child in a way which protects their perception of themselves as ‘strict’ and ‘good’ parents. For example, parents may set a price point limit “OK, you can have the £1.99 version of that, but not the £9.99 version”.

3. You Don’t Get Something For Nothing – sometimes parents will give the child the opportunity to ‘earn’ the thing they seek by having them do something first that they may not have otherwise have wanted to do i.e. chores. homework etc.

4. Maybe Later – not now but later, maybe next time we come here etc., the given reasons can be “we don’t have time”, “I don’t have any money on me” or other such immediate obstacles. This is a fairly obvious delaying tactic though, and the challenge for the parent is that if the child really wants something, this may delay the inevitable, but the child usually won’t forget, and will therefore continue chipping away with repeated pestering.

5. Pass The Buck – Ask your father/mother/grand parent/teacher/anyone else! This is a coping mechanism used to pass the pestering on to another person, normally the other parent. This is often very effective in terms of freeing one parent from pestering, but won’t necessarily win the passing parent any popularity points with the receiving party!

There are some additional factors we see, but the list above covers the main tactics parents use to cope with pester power.

The point for toy or entertainment brands is to communicate to kids and parents in a way which takes account of both ongoing pester power and how parents deal with it in reality…finding a way to become an easy way out for parents, while still creating demand with children can vastly increase the impact of communications – whether it be TVCs, packaging or any other form of communication.


We love testing brands with kids and parents, and delivering actionable, meaningful commercially savvy feedback to kids entertainment brands. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you, or if you’d like us to submit a proposal for a specific research project, please drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ page…

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Kids Brand Insight – Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 June 2014

Kids Brand Insight – Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp

A special one off industry event will be held in Central London, U.K. on Wednesday July 23rd. The Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp will help people in the industry understand how they can use consumer research to test and improve their products, and to reduce the risk of product launch failure.

The event will be run by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight – a leading consumer research consultancy working exclusively in the toy, gaming and kids entertainment sectors. All content on the day will focus specifically on the needs of companies in this industry.

The event will cover the following areas:

  • Introduction to consumer research.
  • Different types of consumer research, and when/why to use them.
  • Problems/issues which can be resolved via research – including examples of typical research topics, and how to robustly test for solutions.
  • Toy specific research factors inc. researching with children, mums and testing flimsy prototypes.
  • Content specific research factors inc. TV animation, Apps, online, books/comics/magazines.
  • Doing it on the cheap – how to do your own ‘rough and ready’ research testing to achieve maximum benefit at least cost.
  • Commissioning research studies, how to avoid wasting money & what to look for in an agency.
  • How to manage consumer research agencies.
  • Practical coaching on discussion group moderating/how to run playtesting sessions.
  • How product designers can consumer test products without ‘it’s my baby’ bias in the findings!
  • Reporting research findings – how to deliver realistic, actionable findings from research.

Early bird tickets are available for £197 (+VAT) until seven days before the event, after which time the price will go up to £297 (+VAT).

“As an industry we don’t tend to test products with our end consumer as much as perhaps we should. ” said Kids Brand Insight CEO Steve Reece. “The purpose of this training day on Wednesday 23rd July is to help build understanding of how research works, how it can help toy companies to deliver top selling product ranges and how to best use it for maximum results.”

More information / ticket bookings please click here:


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Market Research With Children – Actionable Findings

Posted in Uncategorized on 09 June 2014

Market Research With Children – Actionable Findings

One of the major gripes we hear about market research with children from clients with less experience of consumer insight is that they were expecting the children to tell them more.

Our experience suggests that often ‘less is more’ when it comes to children’s market research…in that it’s not about the volume of conversation, and the process of sifting through that for the golden nuggets of insight (as is often the case with adult qualitative research). With kids we find it’s more a case of the spontaneous reaction to stimulus material, and the reason given for preferences for one brand/program/toy/app (etc.) over another that is most revealing.

As such, the foundation of how we test with kids is to ensure we give them the chance to freely express themselves first, followed by introducing the right dichotomies / polarities next to see where they see themselves on the scale, or whether the range of scales of preference we show them includes their preference or if we need to use a different scale.

We have conducted hundreds of research sessions with children, and specialise in this area of research, so we don’t waste time looking for something that isn’t there, instead we focus on what is there and how to maximise the relevance of consumer feedback. Clear actionable findings result from clarity of approach!

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words…Why Kids Research Should Focus On Observation As Much As Conversation

Posted in Uncategorized on 22 May 2014

Actions Speak Louder Than Words…Why Kids Research Should Focus On Observation As Much As Conversation

Have you ever had a long conversation with a child of around 5-6 years of age? Not very likely that you have.

The developmental progress of a child at that age does not give them the wherewithal to have a long conversation easily.

Therefore we tend to raise an eyebrow when encountering research which focuses on conversation alone with children to find out what they think/prefer and why.

Our experience has proven that the most powerful tools when researching with children include observation (seeing what a consumer does versus what they say often gets closer to the truth) and comparisons with other similar things (as children find it easier to explain in comparative terms i.e. it’s better than that because…

So our focus groups with kids are most often structured to facilitate a).  ‘doing’ so that we can observe and b). comparative exercises. We still talk to children as well, but we don’t rely on that alone.

Children don’t have as many layers of social niceties and norming to un-peal, but they do still role play/posture as the social situation demands. Some of the most revealing projects we’ve worked on have shown a massive mismatch between the social position children have taken versus their actual level of affinity with a brand.

By combining both conversation and these other more observational techniques we find a much deeper understanding which helps clients to develop and position their brands for optimal results.

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