Marketing to your consumer’s inner child (Column)

Experiential marketing transports big kids back to their youth

Recalling a time of fewer responsibilities and a more carefree mindset, today’s adults are looking for escapism from the ever-connected working world. They want to enjoy something more visceral, surreal and surprising, so a little “grown-up playtime” is just what the doctor ordered. Many brands are helping provide that break from reality with experiential marketing that transports adults back to their youth and puts their stress in the backseat.

With an above average amount of activity on TrendHunter.com (we’re tracking shares, posts from the site and other social activity), grown-up playtime is a noteworthy trend marketers are honing in on. Childhood pastimes are getting revamped as branded adult experiences, whether it’s playing in ball pits or colouring on walls.


Lipton Ice Tea’s 100-metre ‘Rise & Slide’ in London, England is one example of an adult-targeted campaign with a childlike twist. The cheery yellow slide was placed behind the busy King’s Cross Station, urging passersby to “refresh their commute” with a little bit of fun—and an ice tea. This was the third pop-up installment that ran over the summer months as part of the Unilever brand’s Daybreaker event series, created by Adam&EveDDB.

Also in the U.K., Oreo got in on the action of “kidification” marketing last fall. Traditionally a kid favourite, the brand was looking to connect with an older audience and have them reawaken their inner child. As part of its “Wonderfilled” campaign, Oreo erected adult-only rainbow slides near train stations to help ease the stress and mundane nature of the daily commute. Daniel Kessler, brand manager at Oreo said, “The fact that so many of us admit to enjoying playground rides inspired us to indulge our playful side and set-up some fun slides for commuters to enjoy.”

IKEA also dipped its toe in the grown-up playtime trend for the opening of its new location in Mulhouse, France. Instead of a ribbon cutting or special offer, IKEA decided to plop a full-sized swimming pool full of blue and yellow balls in the town square. The retailer invited select athletes from a local Olympic club to compete in a race and the residents of the town could watch and cheer on their favourite “swimmer.”

Lastly, the Adidas Originals’ flagship in Seoul created an in-store studio to launch the new Superstar Supercolor sneaker collection in collaboration with hip-hop star Pharell Williams. The store allowed patrons to “show their colour” by colouring all over the walls and floors. Armed with paint markers, shoppers could express themselves – and their inner child – however they pleased in the space. Williams, a 42-year-old Gen Xer, has stated, “The truth is, I’m a big kid. I don’t remember growing up. I’m not sure I’ve become an adult yet, actually.” This sentiment seems to be echoed by many Gen X and Y individuals. It’s okay to be a big kid in 2016.

Shelby Walsh is president at Toronto-based Trend Hunter, an online trend community and research company

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