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Kids and families in 2014 – 6 trends to watch
January 2, 2014
We work in a lively and exciting industry, so we could almost certainly say this every year, but nevertheless: 2013 has been a great year for innovations, campaigns, technologies and initiatives within the children and family space. We witnessed a new children’s apps category get created on iTunes, kids TV series published on mobile devices before airing on TV; we witnessed programmed TV being less and less popular with certain audience categories whilst the OTT boxes went from strength to strength. We were in awe to see 3D printing take a bigger step towards the mainstream consumer market and devices such as Oculus Rift being made available to public.
We held our breaths for the new generation consoles. We took pictures with Instagram, but were then taken by Vine and Snapchat and saw many kids abandoning Facebook to explore these more personal social networks. We roared with Katy Perry as she became the most followed singer on Twitter, joined countless teenagers in wondering what does the fox say, and spent many hours playing Candy Crush Saga.
The focus now shifts on what lies ahead, and here at The Little Big Partnership, we put our heads together and thought about some of the key trends and changes we expect to see. These are six highlights, so do share yours and discuss – we’d love to hear your views.
1. The quantified kid
The quantified kid is a variation of the quantified self, a movement to capture data about oneself mostly through the use of wearable tech: am I running fast enough, am I eating well, am I healthy, am I waking up on time in the mornings. You name it, it can be measured, all with the worthy aim of improving the quality of life. Popularised by the launch of the Nike Fuelband and Google Glass, amongst others, the movement towards measuring will only grow. When it comes to families, we have seen projects like the Fingerprint network which allows parents to track their kids’ progress through the apps, but also wearable locators and phones, integrated pedometers or even smart diapers which show if the little one is healthy.
We expect that, in 2014, wearable tech innovation will more overwhelmingly facilitate parenting, and are excited to see some great projects in this arena.
2. A more open world of development
We anticipate that more devices and toys will be designed as platforms inviting open development. At the moment there are a few projects like OUYA, Sphero or Sifteo Cubes which encourage developers to create games using their SDK, but it could be argued that they are still in their nascent stages and need fuller libraries to truly prove the model. There are a few pieces of the puzzle that need to come together for an open development project to have stellar success, including a solid starting-library to attract an initial user base and strong initiatives to encourage the developers’ side of the story. We believe that 2014 will be the year in which, even if the puzzle is not fully complete, it comes very close to that and open development and collaboration are seen as a healthy way to do business and innovate.
3. Creating for a more democratic family
Content creators, marketers and brand owners are increasingly realising that family decision making is, in most cases, more sophisticated than the used-and-abused marketing taglines such as “mum makes all the choices” or “pester power”. As such, they will build more sophisticated products and brands which consider family as a unit, and its members as important contributors to the purchase decision. We know that 6 out of 10 toys purchases are a result of an overt ask by the kids, that family holidays are far too big a risk to not consult the little ones, that mums buy and drive cars and that fathers do change nappies. So we expect to see more initiatives allowing kids to search for a holiday or toys in a way tailored to them, initiatives entertaining an entire family at the car dealership or technology stores and targeting different family members with different, yet perfectly aligned, messages. Simply said, we anticipate an overall increase in the understanding of how family decisions are made.
4. More and better toys for building and making
A couple of forces are at play here, making 2014 the year in which we expect to see some wonderful projects encouraging children to build and create things both digitally and physically. For one, Minecraft has been a social phenomenon, gathering over 33 million players up till October and proving that an interesting concept can bring STEM education closer to the little fingers. There are pressures from governments, industry and individuals to create programmes that will nurture future engineers and programmers and, paying closer attention to girls, to create toys which will encourage thinking and creativity beyond the typical “pink” offering.
5. More brands turning to publishing and producing content
The year 2013 marked some non-publisher brand entering the content creation arena, and so we hadMcDonalds creating kids’ books, Amazon producing their own kids TV series or RBS/Natwest creating an award-winning bank of money advice resources. With brands under a constant pressure to stand out and provide something unique and useful to kids and families, we expect to see more of them turning to content in 2014. At the same time, we strongly advocate the belief that kids’ content has to be created with what is best for kids in mind – the focus should always be on story-telling, not content marketing and this is where we will see real differences between brands doing it well and the ones failing. In a brilliant blog post, Jens outlines this idea in a bit more detail, with a key takeaway: if you do it, do it properly.
6. 3D Printing moving towards the mainstream… but not quite there yet
We were very excited to see the Makie Dolls in Selfridges for Christmas, as well as the brilliant pop-up shop initiative by which a passer-by could text a £5 donation and see a toy 3D-printed in front of their very eyes, later to be given to a vulnerable child as a present. In 2013, Makies received their official 3+ certification, and now they are officially the World’s first “3D printed toy”. Before this, 3D prints were more “figurines” than toys. Also importantly, 3D printers are now available at more accessible prices (starting from below £500) and whilst the user experience is not quite user-friendly yet, the industry is aware of this hurdle and is working on it. These are huge steps for the 3D technology, helping move it into the everyday lives of consumers.
We expect that 2014 will be the year of strong initiatives that will show us new ways in which 3D printing can be used to make children and families smile. Whether it is through printing personalised toys a la Makie Dolls, producing unique spare parts for broken toys, or something entirely different, significant steps will be taken to further popularise the 3D printing technology. However, with the end product still towards the pricey and the not-so-toy-like side, we are holding our breath for one more year until domination.
How about you? What trends and innovations are you looking forward to in 2014?