The girls love making up stories and writing them down. They’re forever scribbling in notebooks, on bits of paper, on the backs of envelopes… anywhere they can really. There are poems, short stories… even full-length children’s picture-books complete with accompanying illustrations, scattered all over the house. One of the twins has even set a career goal to become a writer and illustrator of children’s books when she grows up.
While it might be a bit early for that, I have to admit that some of the stories they come up with are surprisingly good, as long as you’re prepared to gloss over the spelling and grammar errors endemic to an eight-year-old’s writing. They’re entertaining, have a good balance of dialogue and narrative, compelling characters and even a workable plot. It’s fantastic to see the girls ready to engage with and explore written language at this age, but I guess making up stories is an intrinsic part of childhood, and writing those stories down is simply a natural progression of that.
For the last week or so they’ve been putting their love of stories to good use on the web, in an online competition being run by smoothie-maker, Innocent. The company has taken the classic paper and pencil game “consequences”, and adapted it for kids to play online. Traditionally the game involves writing a sentence on a piece of paper and passing it on to the next person. They then read it, and fold the paper over, hiding the original sentence before writing their own… and so on until the conclusion of the story. The web version Innocent has come up with is much simpler… and all the more ingenious for that.
They asked children’s author Francesca Simon, of “Horrid Henry” fame, to write the first sentence of 26 consequences stories, one for each letter of the alphabet. Every day from the 19th of October to the 12th of November anyone between the ages of 4 and 18 can go to www.innocentkids.com and add a line to any or all of the 26 stories. At 4pm a winning line is chosen for each letter, and the story moves on, with everyone’s free to enter again. The daily winner for each letter receives a set of Innocent alphabet fridge magnets and vouchers to buy innocent smoothies. At the end of the competition the writer of the overall winning line wins a book containing all of the stories and a Horrid Henry goody bag.
The twins are hooked! Every day after doing their homework they scan the entries and come up with new lines for a selection of stories. They spend ages at it, all the time on the heavily branded Innocent website.
It’s a clever bit of marketing by Innocent, tapping in to children’s natural tendency to connect with stories and keeping them coming back to the site and engaging with the Innocent brand day-after-day. As a marketing concept it’s brilliant… even if the online execution could perhaps have been better.
On one level it’s a bit of fun with some cool prizes that exercises children’s brains and nurtures their budding creativity… that’s the good part. On a more cynical level I can’t help thinking that this is a highly targeted marketing campaign designed to build brand awareness and encourage consumption of innocent’s range of drinks by children and, by association, their parents, who do the shopping.
I’m always a bit wary of marketing that’s targeted specifically at young children. Kids don’t have the same filters in place as adults when it comes to making sense of advertising in all its many guises. They’re much more inclined to believe what they see, hear and read. As adults we can look objectively at the message being peddled by marketers, identify the motive behind it, and process it in the relevant context. Children on the other hand are much more accepting, and therein lies the danger.
The Innocent campaign, while not necessarily “innocent”, does stay on the right side of the line in terms of responsible marketing for children. Other brands may not….