Magazine Article


Child's Play
Catering to a younger (much younger) demographic

Digital Foci

Photo retailers spend so much time concentrating on the burgeoning soccer-mom demographic these days that it's easy to forget that the kids they're dragging after them could also be a viable audience for photo gear, electronics, and gizmos. According to the NPD Group, cellphones (34%), digital cameras (23%), and portable digital music players (22%) registered the highest levels of purchase in 2007, with a slight skew toward the older kids. In the same study, 34% of kids ages 4 to 14 used (even if they didn't own) digital cameras, a 6-point increase over 2006.

"Beyond specialized photography products, we've found that kids and tweens are looking for new and different ways to showcase their photography and creativity," says Eric Kintz, VP of strategy and marketing for HP's Web Services and Software division. "They're looking to express themselves by personalizing their images and creating unique photo projects, where they can combine their images with professional content from designers and celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Hannah Montana."

Features to Focus On

Before you order those Mickey Mouse digicams, you should adhere to one of the most important rules in retailing: Know thy customer. By knowing the features that both kids and their parents are looking for in their image-creating endeavors, you're already ahead of the game.

First, don't lump all the youngsters congregating in front of your counter under the same umbrella. "Keep in mind the age of each child," says Liza Abrams, director of licensing and corporate communications for Sakar International. "Are they 3 or 12?" Younger kids, for example, will probably require more rugged cameras.

However, even after age is taken into account, the most important features are perhaps the most obvious, as noted by Sally Smith Clemens, product manager, Olympus Imaging America: durability, portability, and looks (as well as color choices).

No parent will dispute the ruggedness factor. "You can count on kids dropping their cameras many times," says Chris Heatherly, VP of electronics, Disney Consumer Products. "How will the camera take a beating? We've engineered our Disney Pix Jr. camera, for example, to be resistant to drops and to protect the camera optics and LCD screen."

Epson product manager Kristi Fox concurs that photo products for kids should be designed for kids. "Portable photo printers should be durable [and with] no sharp edges," she says. "Epson's PictureMate Dash has all of these features and many more."

Being able to carry this coveted gear is also vital to the small fry. "The device has to be compact and portable," says Tiffany Guh, director of marketing, Digital Foci.

Taking portability and compactness a step further are teenagers, according to DXG product marketing manager Marco delRosario. "Teens, more so than older age groups, are more tech-savvy and are looking for a device that's both functional and fashionable," he explains. "Teens view any electronic device as an extension of themselves. Therefore, design, color, and overall look of the products is important."

In fact, what they carry in their pockets is as much status symbol as it is functional memory-maker. "The device needs to look cool and be something they want to show off to their friends," says Digital Foci's Guh.

OK, so the product looks good and won't shatter to pieces if your tyke takes a tumble. But can they actually figure out how to use it? "Cameras these days are overloaded with too many menus, modes, and features that make it difficult for kids to use," says Disney's Heatherly. "Our camera for preschoolers, therefore, has only five buttons, including the shutter. We even eliminated the power button."

How to Sell to Small Fries

You may have a fresh V-Tech shipment ready to fly off the shelves, but knowing how to effectively sell the product is the next step in your youth-indoctrination program.

First, your sales staff should be well versed in how these products work. "Parents will be looking for high-quality, fun features, and affordability," says Samara Tuchband, senior marketing director for VTech Electronics North America. "It's important for photo retailers to focus on these key features and communicate the benefits to parents. It's also important for salespeople to have a good working knowledge of the products so they can answer questions and provide recommendations based on the customer's needs."

Making the display visually appealing is also key. "Make it fun," says Joe Ganahl, president of Intova. Setting up a display of related products focusing on recreation, for example, would help customers by creating an image of how they can use the product.

"It's important to make a statement with kids' cameras and make them visible to parents," says Heatherly. "People who buy their kids a camera are not necessarily going into the store with a mission to buy one; rather, they discover the product and realize that the quality and affordability of what is available is so great that they give it a shot. If a kid's product is just sprinkled in with adult product, it may get lost."

Smith Clemens from Olympus stresses the ancillaries. "Be sure to have the must-have accessories available through your store," she says. "Special straps and carrying cases, waterproof housings--they all appeal to kids. Stores can stock and display a variety of colors."

She also mentions events and activities that can draw young customers in. "Offer store-sponsored photo classes for kids and initiate photo contests with themes that appeal to youngsters (pets, sports, nature, etc.)," she says.

Epson's Fox seconds the interactive approach. "Photo retailers could host photography and printing workshops just for kids, or offer special discounts for 'my first camera' or 'my first photo printer,'" she says. "Retailers could also create a list of products available in their store that are ideal for kids, sell photography books geared toward children, or conduct a photo contest for kids of a certain age group. There are many opportunities for independent or... photo-specialty stores to give back to their communities and help kids discover photography."

Getting the kids involved is the whole point of Lucidiom's animated DVDs that can be made on-site at photo retailers using Lucidiom APMs (Automated Photo Machines). The animated DVDs can be customized with a child's photo so that the child becomes the main character. "We like to put all the creativity in the hands of the consumer," explains Lucidiom VP Rick Glomb. "We'll hear from folks who tell us that they have customers come in and sit at the APM with a child in their lap. With the Kideo, it's all about the storytelling."

Thinking beyond the everyday experience is another way to market to this demographic, according to HP's Kintz. "Photo retailers should take advantage of marketing calendar opportunities to rethink merchandising, expand their creative offerings, and drive simple and emotional impulse purchases as teens shop with their parents--from holiday sales to Halloween and Easter, to name a few," he says. "HP has also partnered with leading retailers to tap into local communities to market these products to schools, PTAs, and local sports clubs. We've developed partnerships to embed ourselves in the younger generation's communities and create exciting publishing opportunities at the point where they create content. The "Hannah Montana MyConcert Memory Book" is a great example where you can create a professional photobook, mashing up personal photos and professional photos of Miley Cyrus during her "Best of Both Worlds" tour. Snapfish is also a great online property that allows you to share photos and create all kinds of creative offerings (photobooks, posters, mugs, etc.) that you can pick up at retail or have delivered to your house."

Technology that's tailor-made to each child also holds intrinsic value. "Look for ways to customize," says Digital Foci's Guh. "While kids want something everyone else has, they also want to be able to customize it to make it unique."

Above all, keep it simple and geared toward the appropriate age group. "Simplicity needs to be called out," says Sakar's Abrams. "I have young children, and if a product looks like it's going to be confusing to me, I'll walk right by. Kids (and their parents) need immediate gratification--not hours of learning how to use a camera or camcorder. The wonderful thing about electronic gadgets is that not only are many of them very easy to use, but children are light-years ahead of adults in terms of their knowledge. Electronics for the youth market are here to stay, and I think retailers have gotten very creative in the way they market them."

Manufacturers offer their take on why it's so important to get the younger generation into photography:

"It's important to get the younger generations into photography because it helps develop their self-expression, creativity, and self-confidence. Photography is a great way for kids to express their feelings and emotions, which will in turn help them develop their own identify and communicate their ideas to others. Through photography, kids can see their surroundings in different perspectives and learn to appreciate life. Finally, photography simply helps young kids keep great memories of their life experiences. It can also increase family interaction, which helps bring family closer together."
--Tiffany Guh, director of marketing, Digital Foci

"Photos are a great vehicle for so many developmental tasks for kids. First, they're about recording memories. This is going to be the first generation that will be able to look back in 20 years at their lives from their own point of view through the lens of a camera. I wish I could do that and be transported back to when I was 5 years old. Second, we know that some of the important ways that kids learn are through storytelling and visual aides. Photos are a great mechanism for both. And finally, photos are an entry into a broader world of digital creativity. We know that kids don't just like to take photos--they like to make art projects out of them, cut them up, make collages, etc."
--Chris Heatherly, VP of Electronics, Disney Consumer Products

"Based on a study by CEA in 2005, 33 percent of teens own a digital imaging device, which is one of the fastest growing CE sectors. With the increasing amount of time teens spend online to get connected, to share their lives via online social network, photography is fast becoming part of a teen's daily life. Photography, especially digital photography, is not only important but necessary. It's a better and easier way of sharing and documenting their lives and their interests."
--Marco delRosario, product marketing manager, DXG

"Photography is a fun extracurricular activity kids can get involved in, either by taking classes with their peers or by simply exploring photography on their own, and it gives them an opportunity to see the world in new ways. Photography is both an art and a science with multiple opportunities for children to learn. It allows them to express their creativity and capture memories for the future, while thinking creatively about light and color.

"Photography is also an inexpensive and exciting outlet that allows kids to learn an art form. And with increasing budget cuts at many schools and the pressure to prep students for state testing, the time allotted for teachers to incorporate art into the class curriculum has been dramatically impacted. But photography can be practiced anytime and anywhere--whether it's indoors on a rainy day, while traveling on a family vacation, or on a walk home from school, giving children the opportunity to expand their knowledge of art and develop skills outside of the classroom.

"Additionally, photography is a creative outlet that our younger generation can use during their entire lifetime, which will help them continue to learn and enjoy art as they age. Younger kids may just want to snap and print, but as they get older they can learn to create scrapbooks, slideshows, photo calendars, greeting cards, and more, and eventually use advanced software to edit their photos and enhance their creative projects. What they learn about photography as children can develop into a lifetime hobby."
--Kristi Fox, product manager, Epson

"Younger generations are creating content like never before, from blogs and social networks to photos, videos, and other MP3 files. In fact, the amount of digital content created is exploding--in 2007 alone, this content explosion was equivalent to about 3 million times the information in all the books ever written. However, their usage of that content differs dramatically from their parents, who grew accustomed to the 4x6 model: They share their photos on social networks and through wireless devices. It's important to show them how to unleash their creativity through a more creative output, as well as by mashing up their personal images with licensed content. This will help drive future behaviors as they become parents and become the family memory-keepers."
--Eric Kintz, vice president of strategy and marketing, Web Services and Software division, HP

"They are the future of our industry and a significant sector today. Retailers should absolutely be working to realize sales from this demographic today while building relations for many years to come."
--Joe Ganahl, xxxx, Intova

"Photography gives young people the chance to document their daily lives in a creative way."
--Sally Smith Clemens, product manager, Olympus

"Kids have loved taking photos for generations. The idea of capturing your friend--or feet--on film is exciting and fun! I remember my own first camera with disposable flash bulbs--it was a real thrill, and really easy. Photography is not only an art form, but for most of us, it has become a way to record our ‘history' and memories. Everyone loves looking at photos, whether it's of themselves or of a complete stranger. There's something really entrancing about photographs!"
--Liza Abrams, director of licensing and corporate communications, Sakar International

"Photography is a great way for children to share their point of view about the world around them. Kids always want their parents' gadgets, especially their digital cameras, so a camera designed especially for them is the perfect way to give them the opportunity to express their creativity."
--Samara Tuchband, senior marketing director, VTech Electronics North America

Below are some of the newest offerings that you can showcase in your own store for your youngest customers.

Digital Foci
The Pocket Album OLED 1.5 is a digital keychain that lets kids carry their photo moments with them to view and share everywhere they go. The keychain holds 124 digital images on its 32MB internal memory, and photos can be viewed by scrolling manually or randomly through an automatic photo slideshow with adjustable intervals. The user-friendly Photo Viewer software makes it easy to convert images of various formats from the computer to the Pocket Album OLED. You can crop and rotate any photos you wish to transfer and then automatically resize the photos for optimal storage and display on the viewer. Pocket Album OLED runs on lithium-polymer batteries that are easily recharged with the included AC adapter or with the USB cable by connecting it to the computer. Pocket Album OLED 1.5 comes in three colors: Warm Gray, Carbon Fiber, and Ruby Red.

The 1.3-megapixel Disney Pix Jr. digital camera for preschoolers (3+) is extremely durable with rubber grips and a large display screen for easy viewing. Due to the memory (32MB SDRAM), youngsters can click rapidly, with only two seconds between pictures. The USB-enabled camera comes in three themed styles: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh. The Photofriends software features Disney character overlays, a fun activity for youngsters. The camera will be available this summer nationwide at and in national retailers like Target this fall.

Perfect for the roving teen documentarian, the DXG-565V digital camcorder is a small, compact, portable unit that comes in five different colors. The camcorder records D1 video resolution in MPEG-4 video, as well as capture still images in JPEG format up to 12 megapixels. A large, bright 2.4-inch flip-out LCD screen allows the user to frame the subject or review files. Easy-to-use menus and buttons allow even the beginning shooter to start recording. Other features include a digital voice recorder, a built-in music player, and built-in flash in three different modes.

The PictureMate small-format-printer line (including the kid-friendly PictureMate Dash) enables consumers to easily print professional-quality 4x6 photos at home or on the go, with or without a computer. PictureMate uses Epson's exclusive archival printing technology for long-lasting prints that resist fading far longer than traditional film-processed prints--up to 96 years in a glass frame and more than 200 years in an album. Plus, the prints are smudge-, scratch-, and water-resistant--a definite plus for little fingers working on exciting photo projects.

The model IC 500 5-megapixel camera is tough and durable, with photo/video/audio capabilities. The compact camera comes with a rugged waterproof housing that has full-function button control, dual o-rings, and a depth capacity of 130 feet. Another key feature is the unique shock-absorbent lining built into the housing.

Lucidiom Inc. is bringing a selection of animated DVD titles to photofinishing retailers. These Animated Specialty DVD products take a child's photo and incorporate it into the movie, allowing the child to become the star of the show. For example, the Christmas theme video, "My Christmas Adventure," features the child in a winter wonderland of magic and fun, where they snowboard, dance, pilot an airplane, and fly with Santa. Lucidiom is offering this new product capability with no up-front charges to its APM retailers; retailers are charged a fee each time a DVD is ordered. The child's photo is sent out via the APM's Internet connection, and the DVD is mailed back to the store. There are eight videos available (as of press time), with additional titles to come this year.

Think your kid can destroy a camera faster than the Hulk? You probably haven't seen the Stylus 850 SW, which comes housed in a rugged metal body in a variety of colors and designed with shock-absorbing construction designed to withstand a 5-foot fall, drop, or other mishap (and parents know that could comprise nearly anything). Waterproof seals and gaskets allow the young user to take underwater movies and pix, while the freezeproof (to 14 degrees F) feature makes the camera perfect for a snowboarding, sledding, or skiing adventure. Digital image stabilization lets users get sharp, blur-free pictures.

The Crayola-branded digital camcorder, available in green and purple, includes a 1.5-inch color preview swivel screen, rubberized parts for durability, proprietary software for creating movies and special effects, a built-in microphone, and connectors to watch directly on TV or PC.

The Kidizoom camera, for ages 3 and up, is a chunky, colorful handheld unit that allows kids to snap their own pictures and shoot digital video, edit with wacky effects, and hook up to the computer or TV for photo and video playback. The new, updated version snaps 1.3-interpolated-megapixel photos at 640 x 480 resolution. The camera features a large, high-resolution 1.8-inch color screen for photo and movie viewing; stores 200 photos or five minutes of digital video with its 16MB built-in memory; connects to a TV for photo and video playback, photo editing, or game playing; and connects to a PC for photo and video playback, storage, photo editing, and printing. The camera also includes a variety of preschool games, such as photo puzzles and memory matching, and comes in orange, blue, and pink.