Just Being Kids: Packaging Ideas For The 'Busy Backlash'

Much has been written about the over-scheduling of kids' lives. For kids from 6 to 17, this over-structuring results in less free playtime—more than 30 minutes less each day per decade.
Packaging has responded by offering everything from suntan lotion to snack food in "grab-and-go" forms. While "on-the-go" is here to stay, marketers have a huge yet unseen opportunity to pull back and recognize who kids really are. Packaging can lead the way.
Over-scheduling, coupled with greater emphasis on academic achievement, means we're expecting kids to grow up faster. In fact, while their lives look more and more like ours, they don't have the tools to manage stress. After all, they're just kids.
But the big news—and we should not be surprised—is that they want to stay kids for a while. Kids complain more about anxiety than any other issue in their lives. Recent studies find that more than 80 percent of kids feel they lack enough free time to have fun and just be kids. Surprisingly, 80 percent of parents agree.
For kids, fun means simple, unstructured time for play, exploration, self-expression and interaction. It's time for playing independently, where they can make their own rules and explore personal interests. It's time for "hanging out" with friends, playing non-competitive games, or doing absolutely nothing. We call this need the "Busy Backlash."
Marketers have seen the writing on the wall for answering this need, but they haven't connected the dots in a packaging sense.
Individuals, who still 'belong'
Kids say that scooters and skateboards are their favorite new products. Portable, hand-held toys and electronic games are flying off the shelves, set to represent 75 percent of the toy business in a few years. Two-thirds of kids will travel this summer (note KidSuites at Holiday Inn). Swimming and bicycling are their favorite activities.
Through these product and activity choices, kids are looking to express their individualism while still "belonging." All these indicators suggests an irrepressible need for unstructured playtime where independent fun and imagination rule. Kids just want to be kids, and we can't stop them.
The "Busy Backlash" will join forces with considerable purchasing power among kids and teens to drive opportunities for marketers.
How? Exposure to the Internet and media has honed their research and decision-making skills. They can become instant experts in any category they choose.
About 90 percent of moms say their 6- to 10-year-olds influence buying decisions of all kinds, and three-fourths of their food and beverage purchases.
Changing household patterns have even driven our kids into the kitchen. Half make their own lunch each day. By "make", we really mean "grab."
More surprisingly, about one-third of kids occasionally put dinner on the table for themselves or their family.
What's the good news here? Kids are virtually unanimous in saying they like to prepare and cook meals.
So, how does the "Busy Backlash" translate into meaningful opportunities for marketers? How can package structure deliver functionality to capitalize on them?
We've identified three behavioral/ attitudinal trends that are ripe for package structure innovation.
Kids want opportunities to personalize and customize products. They are moving slightly away from defining themselves through group affiliation, and are looking for ways in which the products they buy can signal their own unique image. This might mean packaging that is interactive, allowing kids to do things their own way.
Kids are traveling. Greater ethnic diversity is driving a need to educate kids on their cultural background and traditions. How better to immerse kids in their history than to visit their "homeland." Families are also vacationing more frequently in search of a better work/life balance. Packaging can help them to stay on the road.
Kids are cooking. More than just assembling, kids are preparing meals from scratch for themselves and their family, and find it fun. As opposed to the evident "grab-and-go" behavior, there's something quite different happening here that warrants marketers' attention. Packaging can help deliver that self-expressive experience.
We spent time thinking about what each of these opportunities means for innovative package structure. Here are illustrations of three package structure concepts across categories that we think could deliberately capitalize on the emerging "Busy Backlash."
The authors, Ken Miller and Jim Warner, are the Managing Partners at One80 Design, New York City, a package structure innovation and design firm. Contact them at 212.268.1801 or ken@one80design.com or jim@one80design.com
New column debuts
With our February issue,
BRANDPACKAGING magazine debuts a new column, "Innovating for Lifestyle Trends." The column, written by Ken Miller and Jim Warner, Managing Partners at One80 Design in New York, will appear in the magazine periodically.
Miller's and Warner's backgrounds lie in structural package design. In each column, they will introduce package concepts that could respond effectively to market or lifestyle trends across categories.