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Kids Brands as Main Course

Maybe it’s our full immersion in the latest season of MasterChef Jr. that’s got us going all culinary with our metaphors…But recently, we’ve noticed that the kids brands that are winning with kids tend to share a common strategy – they treat their kids offering like a critical accompaniment to their main course, not an-easy-to-ignore side.


Now, don’t get us wrong, sides often make the meal. They can serve as a compliment to the plate’s centerpiece in a way that strengthens and deepens their flavor. They are often the dish that showcases the chef’s creative chops, and maybe even earns them their reputation. But when it comes to kids offerings from adult brands – think kids welcome packs, kids meals, or kid-sized experiences of an adult experience - brands often veer off course from their central mission. In other words, their side dish doesn’t go with their main.


To give brands and brand managers credit, there might be a reason that they are relegating their kids’ offering to the bottom of the proverbial menu, but “mini-me’s” hardly ever work. And that’s because kids are not simply adults in training. They are a stand-alone culture with a bridge to adult culture, simultaneously living in a world of their own. Their daily schedules, needs, beliefs and desires are distinct from adults based on life stage, cohort and the kid culture that they consume (and shape). To focus on them as adults with diminished stature discounts them at best and disrespects them at worst.


Brands that ignore genuine kid offerings or treat kids as an audience-on-the-side are missing an opportunity to connect with a group that matters more than ever. Today’s kids have more influence on family decisions than ever before. They have a seat at the table when it comes to determining how their family chooses to eat, drink, shop, travel and play. And they bring along parents or other adults who not only need for kids to be happy during an experience, but who also want their child to be acknowledged.


When we think of brands doing a great job, a few come to mind…


  • Kimpton Hotels translates their luxury experience for adults into an experience that truly caters to kids. Their signature Happy Hour comes just after their Kids Happy Hour (at many if not all locales), where kids can cozy up to a wagon full of kid-friendly games, treats like hot chocolate bars that get parent’s approval, and spaces that make the lobby feel less like a hip bar and more like a cool kids’ room.
  • Mini Boden stylish kids clothes have long reflected the playful side of their high-end parent brand. But recently they went even further than simply taking their preppy, casual stylings and shrinking them to kids sizes. They partnered with Roald Dahl to create fashions that reflect his most beloved titles, including The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and This literary license was a perfect fit with the parent brand and made for shirts, skirts and shorts that mom and dad might covet, but that kids truly choose for themselves.
  • And finally, Sonic. Their irreverent humor has made the brand increasingly interesting to kids. But their occasional tater heroes brings their sarcastic sensibility to kids in an appropriately friendly, fun way.


To get started, get some insight into your brand’s kid essence and make sure your kid offering feel less like an afterthought and more like the reputation maker for your main course.