Creating a Shari Newman Kids Experiential Experience
By Linda Flanagan
Kids’ curiosity is at its apex as they grow up. Being taught an “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” mindset means kids’ minds are confused in the best possible way. Real curiosity brings children joy, as well as helps them try new things and be creative. I had the opportunity to talk with CEO of Costa Group Shari Newman about her research findings, how brands can engage children in fun, inquisitive ways, and why certainty really isn’t a good thing.
Linda Flanagan: How can brands raise the curiosity level in children?
Shari Newman: Brands know how to engage kids in fun, inquisitive ways, and creating role models who exude curiosity through their work will help to raise the curiosity level in children. Over the past several years, I’ve been working with brands who are getting kids’ attention, but from a different perspective than many brands are used to seeing. Recently, we’ve been working with brands that don’t have a strong connection to kids. Rather, they are using kids as a conduit for brand exposure to reach out and engage parents in a more authentic way. In working with brands that don’t have a strong connection to kids, it was important for us to figure out how kids can be brought into the process from a “to-be-created” place. It’s easy to think about creating creative content at scale when there is an immediate connection to a brand’s audience – as you can imagine, some of those audiences are huge and already aware of these brands.
That being said, brands and agencies must find a way to get kids excited about what could be created. This is where role models and involving children will play an important role. A few brands were already engaging with kids on a smaller scale and now our role in the process has become multi-faceted – working with brands to develop content for the kiddie space and helping create stories for kids using our kids’ creative freedom. Once these stories are created, the brand uses the content to engage parents, which is my favorite part.
LB: Do children care about how brands are perceived?
SN: At the end of the day, parents want the stories their kids hear to be real and to feel comfortable with them. For example, I created a youth marketing campaign with an acrostic and a list of questions that parents could ask their kids. After talking to numerous parents and kids, children have no clue what the acrostic means. They just think it’s fun – and that’s a really cool concept!
LB: Why do you say certainty isn’t a good thing?
SN: Without any knowledge or sense of uncertainty, kids don’t consider how to handle situations – and that has a lot of effects on their learning. One of the common strategies kids use is to “push the pause button” and put it off. But what happens in practice can be less than ideal – anxiety, increased temper tantrums, outbursts and other undesirable behaviors. Sure, when kids have an “aww, what’s he doing?” feeling, their anxiety levels go down a bit, but still, they’re not getting the important lessons.
Obviously, this is true with any of the skills that we hope kids learn. The ability to take risks and try something new are skills that also have an equally powerful and negative effect. Kids feel like they have to take drastic action, even in cases where there’s no need to do so, but this teaches them that the unexpected is not a good option.
In my experience with parents and children, the biggest takeaway from the process of creating and learning about the issue and design concepts for the campaign is that we can’t wait for children to solve it; we need to help them become more comfortable to take the time to resolve it in their own manner. We need to help them develop curiosity, joy and excitement at solving a problem.
To help achieve this goal, we had to help bring the process to them and that’s what this campaign does.
LB: What do you think the next big thing in experiential will be?
SN: I personally love to create narratives around the Big Questions for kids, to get them thinking and asking about various issues of concern. I’m currently working on a project about mental health. There are many agencies that can bring their talent, stories and ideas to bear. This year, the P&G Global Brand Summit is going to be really powerful because so many of the interesting brands, agencies and individuals are going to be part of the event –