Kids will be the most effective ambassadors for the edible insect industry. If we can convince them that eating bugs is healthy, sustainable, tasty, and COOL, then they will compel their parents to make product purchases and the industry to meet demand in kind. If marketers know that kids crave these delicious critters, it bodes well for the entire edible insect industry. And what happens to kids when they stop being kids? They become insect-eating adults, influencing their future families and peers with their minds and wallets.
Although kids can be picky eaters, they are also the bravest. I remember when green ketchup hit the market back in the day and all I wanted was for my mom to pick some up so I could disgust her at the dinner table. Green ketchup did not last for long, but the point did: kids are open-minded. They have yet to be fully indoctrinated into the cultural rulebooks of “eat this, not that.” Today’s children also have a deeper concern for following environmental rules and less of a concern for following social rules. And, with their brain elasticity that would make any adult trying to learn a new video game envious, they learn quickly!
Kids Drive Demand – Using “Pester Power”
Sometimes referred to as “pester power,” many marketers rely on a child’s ability to pester their mom to buy the product, rather than directly targeting the mother. Today’s kids have more autonomy and decision-making power within a family than in previous generations, making them a powerful market segment.
We’ve seen many of the edible insect companies market to the health food, eco-conscious, and athletic communities—but we’re only just seeing companies like Chirps Chips redirect marketing efforts towards a younger audience. And it makes business sense.
Advertisers Eyes on Kids
According to Food Dive, advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market. Children are often more susceptible to marketing and are quick to demand products that they grow to covet. In a world where children are faced with more food-like products than actual REAL food, it makes not only business but ethical sense to encourage the consumption of healthy, sustainable products. With childhood obesity on the rise, advocacy groups are concerned about the snack industry’s youth-targeted campaigns. Enter: edible insects.
While this information has often been misused, advertisers have had the help of well-paid researchers and psychologists to uncover what makes children tick. They have dug into children’s developmental, emotional, and social needs at different ages to craft sophisticated marketing strategies to reach young people. Many used tactics such as licensing popular television characters, generating a “cool factor” around the product with peer advertising, and even gamifying food items to make them more whimsical and fun. Advertisers also target two places where children spend large portions of time for product placement: the educational system and the internet.
Ethical Marketing to Kids
So how can edible companies stand out in an ethical way?
First of all, I believe that marketing edible insects to children is in it of itself free from the moral grey-areas that most snack industries face, so long as the products retain their nutritional statuses. Eating bugs is known for being nutritious. Crickets, for example, are great sources of protein, iron, B12, healthy fats, and a number of micronutrients. Not only are they healthy for our bodies, but they are easier on the environment than traditional protein sources like livestock.
Now how do we communicate this to kids? Edible insect companies can expand upon some common tactics:
- Using bold, easy to read lettering and packaging
- Keeping marketing messages simple
- Creating engaging, interactive environments based on their products and brand names that can build brand loyalties from an early age
- Forming partnerships with online “influencers” who recommend the product in a genuine way
- Crafting viral ads that are designed to be passed through friend networks
- Behavioral targeting, where ads are sent to individuals online based on preferences
The Food Marketing Workgroup reported that in 2013 84% of the food ads seen by children were for products high in saturated fat, sugar, or sodium. Hopefully, we will see an increasing trend of healthful messaging to children, like in the Project Explorer Video titled “Let’s Eat Insects!”