May 10, 2004
SUMMARY: Whether you market to kids, or you conduct focus groups and intercept interview research campaigns, you'll find this article very interesting. Includes details on methodology, as well as what Nickelodeon learned about America's next generation of consumers.
You'll learn what kids spend their money on, how they earn it, and what ethnic labels they apply to themselves. (For example, non-Asian kids don't understand the term "Asian", and Hispanic kids are far more likely to buy music than other kids are.)
As America becomes a profoundly multicultural society in the 21st century, the first demographic to be most deeply affected are our children.
So, starting in 2000, Nickelodeon joined with the Cultural Access Group to implement an annual syndicated Multicultural Kids Study.
We talked with Laura Wendt, Senior VP, Nickelodeon Research and Planning about how the study works and what they've learned so far. These results are not only significant for marketers reaching youth, but also for all brands as today's kids grow up to become tomorrow's adults.
- How the study worked
The three-part study of kids ages six to 14 had two qualitative components and one quantitative component:
o Qualitative research
Much of the questions during the qualitative research focused on self-definition: How do you define yourself, who do you play with after school, when do you see your family, how do you define your culture, etc.
--Eight Kid-talk House Parties
The Nickelodeon/CAG team invited a principle kid of a particular ethnicity (Asian, Hispanic, African American, and white) and asked them to invite their two best friends for a kid-talk party.
The parties consisted of house tours and interviews with the kid and his/her two friends.
Each of eight kid-talk house parties lasted two-and-a-half hours.
Note: While the kids were being interviewed, the teams also conducted interviews with the moms. "What were we going to do with the moms to keep them out of the room while we're interviewing the kids?" Wendt asked. "We decided to keep them busy with an activity, so why not make it a useful activity? We knew moms would be a good source for us." Questions for the moms focused on demographic info.
--Four Kid-talk Camp Parties
These took place in public settings such as a YWCA in New York's Chinatown.
"We know from our own research that kids will often see different things depending on where they're sitting," Wendt says. "In public they may do one thing, and something different at home."
At the camp parties, the kids were familiar with the other attendees, but were not necessarily close friends.
The kids did charades as an ice breaker; another exercise asked them to draw their favorite foods.
o Quantitative research
The quantitative portion of the study encompassed 1500 30-minute intercept interviews with Hispanic, African American, Asian, and white kids in 16 cities representing the West, the Northeast, the South, and Middle America:
Each interview took place in malls or strip malls. "We asked them questions in a whole host of categories: what it means to them to be the ethnicity they are, their neighborhoods, money and allowances, spending categories, food issues, self identity, worries and fears," Wendt explains.
During the intercepts, the parents were questioned as well. Those questions focused on demographics: who are the other people in the home, who's working, etc.
They also collected height and weight on each kid in order to calculate the child's BMI (body mass index).
- What Wendt learned while conducting the study
o Like moderators
"We had noticed with [television show] pilot tests that if we did not have an African American moderator in the room with African American kids, we would not get the same results as if we had a like moderator for ethnically sensitive subjects," Wendt says.
During the study, she made sure that moderators complemented the ethnicity and gender of the kids. "If it's a gender sensitive issue, you should have a like moderator, that's pretty typical," Wendt says. The ethnic idea, however, is relatively new, at least for Nickelodeon. "It's something we're pretty sure about now," she says.
o Identities: part ethnic, part American
When the kids at the camp parties were asked to draw pictures of their favorite foods, Wendt says that at the Chinatown camp party, "We got a lot of cereal for breakfast, McDonald's for lunch, rice and chicken for dinner. It was an interesting mix. Some parts of them are Chinese, some parts American."
Before results were even compiled, it was clear to Wendt that obesity strikes non-white kids disproportionately, particularly African American and Hispanic.
Wendt shared preliminary results on the study in two areas:
o Area #1. Money and spending
Percentage of kids who get a weekly allowance (and average allowance amount):
Asian American kids: 62% ($13.70)
Hispanic kids: 58% ($12.20)
African American kids: 56% ($11.30)
White kids: 54% ($9.20)
"So not only do white kids get a smaller allowance, but fewer of them get an allowance." Asians may be more likely to have higher allowances because, Wendt explains, "Most Asian kids are likely to have two parents at home, and a two income family."
There's a big difference, too, in how kids of different ethnicities earn their allowances:
80% of Hispanic kids reported that their allowance is
contingent upon doing chores.
While many Asian American, African American, and white kids
also do chores, they are less likely to have their allowances
contingent upon those chores.
Asian American kids are the most likely to get money as gifts,
particularly around the Chinese New Year
Top categories of spending among all kids were food and
snacks, toys and games, clothes, and music
Asian American kids are the most likely to say they save "some
or all of their money"
Kids of all three other groups are more likely than white kids
to spend money on food and snacks
White kids are the most likely to spend money on toys and
Hispanics are more likely to spend money on music than any
African American and Hispanic kids are more likely to spend
money on clothes than white kids
Note: these are general answers based on all the kids interviewed, from ages six to 14. Much of the percentages vary when broken out more specifically by age.
o Area #2. Self-definition and definition of other ethnic groups
"When you're talking to kids as young as six in places like St. Paul, you can't use labels like Hispanic, Asian," Wendt says. "You need to be more specific. They don't understand 'ethnic identity.'"
The answer, she says, is to identify more closely with the kids' country of origin.
Hispanic kids prefer to be referred to as Mexican, Caribbean,
Central American, or South American
African American, Hispanic, and white kids don't understand
the term "Asian" (Wendt found that she had to use the terms
Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese to help the kids in the study
understand what she was talking about)
Asian American kids have a broader definition of themselves,
and use the more broad term ("Asian")
"When you're talking to kids, specificity counts," Wendt says. "If you're general, they don't know what you mean."