Children's Research: Where It's Been, Where It Is Going

Judy A. Harrigan, Harrigan-Bodick, Inc.
[ to cite ]:
Judy A. Harrigan (1991) ,"Children's Research: Where It's Been, Where It Is Going", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 11-17.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 11-17

CHILDREN'S RESEARCH: WHERE IT'S BEEN, WHERE IT IS GOING

Judy A. Harrigan, Harrigan-Bodick, Inc.

As we launch into the 90's, it's fair to ask ourselves, as researchers, what maturational level we've reached in children's research. during the 80's.

CHILDREN'S RESEARCH -- WHERE IT'S BEEN

The ARF Children's Research Council fielded a pilot study, in 1988, to gain insight into where children's research had been during the 80's.

Two hundred questionnaires were sent to individuals in corporations and advertising agencies that market children's products. We asked them about the research they had conducted, during the preceding year, on products for children aged 6 to 12 years.

A total of 49 questionnaires were returned yielding a 25% response rate. Those responding represented a cross section of the industry. Approximately, three-quarters were equally divided between researching children's products for the food and toy industries. The remainder were involved in programming, candy, beverage and clothing research. Individuals answering the survey had positions of responsibility in their departments.

CHILDREN'S RESEARCH BUDGETS

A budget of 16 million dollars was spent by these respondents on children's research. About half spent $100,000 or less per year, about 30% spent $100,000 to $1/2 million, 11% spent $1/2 million to $1 million and 8% of the companies' budgets surpassed a million dollars for children's research. (Figure 1).

NATURE OF THE RESEARCH

A total of 1,138 research projects for children's products were conducted, during the preceding year, by the 49 respondents. The majority of these were quantitative projects. (Figure 2).

RESPONDENTS INTERVIEWED

Respondents were asked among whom these research projects on children's products were conducted. For both qualitative and quantitative research, the majority of the projects were conducted only among children. Parents were researched, either alone or to complement the children's research, 42% of the time for quantitative and 38% of the time for qualitative projects. Note, these percentages were based on the total number of projects conducted, and therefore reflect the practices of companies with a larger number of projects. (Figure 3).

INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES

The most prevalent interviewing technique used among children was the central location test. The next was mini-groups of 3 to 7 children with the rest including a variety of techniques.

When asked whether these techniques would be used "more", "less" or the "same" amount in the future, about a third of the respondents thought there would be an increase in most of the techniques. Exceptions were "self-administered in groups", "in-home interviewing" and "children's panels." The anticipated trend reflects the interest and growth in children's research. (Figure 4).

TYPES OF TESTS

Almost half of the reported tests were either product tests, concept tests or commercial tests. The remaining tests included segmentation, programming, packaging, promotion, print ads, brand name and pricing. (Figure 5).

When the number of companies conducting research, and not the number of projects was the base, it was evident that the mother continued to have an important role. Among the three most prevalent types of tests, TV commercial testing had the largest number of companies which interviewed "children onlY." (Figure 6).

WRITTEN SCALES

As we'll discuss today, there are diverse opinions and practices regarding the use of specific scales. Among the industry representatives in this study, the most popular written scales were "overall appeal" and "ask mom to buy." The practice of directly asking children for their purchase interest was limited. (Figure 7).

VISUAL SCALES

Visual scales were used less frequently, in general, than written scales. Given younger children's limited verbal skills, this finding was surprising. The smiley and star scales were the most commonly used scales on the aided list. (Figure 8).

SALES FORECASTING

Sales forecasting of children's products was an area of industry interest. Half of the respondents in this study had "ever tried" to forecast sales for children's products while 39% "currently" forecast sales for children's products. Most of the respondents involved in sales forecasting used a combination of child and parent input. (Figure 9).

SALES FORECASTING MODELS

Both outside suppliers and in-house proprietary sales forecasting models for children's products were used. When asked if they had "alot", "a little", or "not much" confidence in the technique they used, only about a third of the respondents said they had "alot of confidence.'' (Figure 10).

FIGURE 1

BUDGET FOR CHILDREN'S RESEARCH

--LAST YEAR--

IN THOUSANDS ('000) OF DOLLARS

FIGURE 2

QUALITATIVE VS. QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH PRODUCTS

CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

FIGURE 3

RESPONDENTS INTERVIEWED FOR CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

QUANTITATIVE & QUALITATIVE

FIGURE 4

CHILDREN'S INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES USED

FIGURE 5

TYPES OF TESTS CONDUCTED ON CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

--PAST YEAR--

FIGURE 6

RESPONDENTS INTERVIEWED FOR DIFFERENT TESTS

FIGURE 7

WRITTEN SCALES USED NOW

--WITH CHILDREN--

FIGURE 8

VISUAL SCALES USED NOW

--WITH CHILDREN--

FIGURE 9

% OF RESPONDENTS UTILIZING SALES FORECASTING FOR CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

FIGURE 10

PROPRIETARY VS. SUPPLIER SALES FORECASTING MODELS

CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS

FIGURE 11

GREATEST NEEDS FOR INDUSTRY-WIDE ATTENTION AND DEVELOPMENT IN CHILDREN'S RESEARCH

--1ST OR 2ND MENTION--

CHILDREN'S RESEARCH - WHERE IT IS GOING

And, what were the major issues on these researchers' minds as they entered the 90's? The areas identified as having the greatest need for industry-wide attention and development in children's research were: understanding children's purchase influence, followed by measurement scales, volumetric forecasting and people meter issues. (Figure 11).

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