How Children’s Brands Use Facebook

Children below the age of 13 aren’t allowed on Facebook. But that’s not stopping the brands that target the ‘13 and under’ age group from being there. For example, Barbie, Dora and Hot Wheels all have Facebook pages; so who are they directing their posts to?

Back in June of 2012, a Consumer Reports study estimated 5.6 million children were on Facebook – a figure that, according to the experts, includes many who create accounts with help from their parents.

The question is: are advertisers targeting this audience despite Facebook’s age restrictions? We decided to take a closer look.

Dora the Explorer’s Facebook page has a whopping 1.7 million likes. However, there is a good chance a lot of these fans are not Dora enthusiasts themselves, but the parents of this target audience.

Though Dora’s page offers a number of games, contests and prizes directed at the under-13 age group, the posts encourage parents to take these activities offline – with options to “print and play”, or links redirecting fans to the brand’s website, where kids are welcome to participate.

Not to mention, the language used in many of these posts clearly demonstrates the brand’s focus on engaging with parents rather than children. And the high engagement rates speak for themselves – Dora is clearly doing something right.

Dora Facebook

Barbie’s Facebook page appears to take a somewhat different approach. Posts consistently refer to fans as “dolls” with questions such as: “Which of Barbie’s many fab careers look the most fun to you, dolls?” Although that’s not to say many – or any – of the over 8 million “dolls” that like Barbie’s fan page are under the age of 13.

The language Barbie uses on Facebook appears to be directed at a more mature audience than the typical demographic Barbie targets. But as marketing experts have explained, tweens are no longer acting their age. “Kids now are more adult in appearance, attitude, and thinking than ever,” writes Greg Smith, in the white paper titled Tweens ‘R Shoppers. “The phenomenon of age compression is, bar none, the most significant development affecting youth marketing today,” he continues. “Tweens, especially girls, want to look older and to act and behave like teenagers.”

You tell us – what age group do you think Barbie is targeting with this post?

Barbie Facebook

Hot Wheel’s Facebook page also appears to target a somewhat older demographic than those known to play with the toys today. In fact, rather than focusing on the plastic toys we all tend to associate with the brand, Hot Wheel’s Facebook page consistently posts images of real, life-size cars – the fast, sexy toys that full grown men are drawn to.

We believe Hot Wheel’s has hit a point of nostalgia amongst its Facebook audience, which certainly helps the brand’s rate of engagement. The people commenting, liking and sharing posts like the one below are lifelong fans of Hot Wheels – the male audience who, now grown up and dreaming about driving these cars in real life, vividly remember playing with the miniature, plastic versions “back in the day.”

Hot Wheels Facebook

Whether or not this alter Hot Wheels audience is buying the toys for their kids – or heck, maybe still for themselves – they are engaging with the brand on Facebook and sharing posts like rapid fire.

What We’ve Learned

Each of these three brands takes their own unique approach on Facebook. They’ve found new ways to drive engagement, despite the fact that their products are targeted at an audience who is restricted from the platform. They show us how, even if a company’s clients or customers aren’t on Facebook, there are still many ways the brand can use the platform strategically to drive awareness, engagement, web traffic and, ideally, sales.

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