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Kids, parents, toys & gender

Research report by KIDSPLAYTESTtm looking at whether UK consumers approve or embrace gender stereotyping and labelling of toys, games & kids entertainment content

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Kids, parents, toys & gender

  1. 1. Steve Reece Steve’s Toy Industry Blog:
  2. 2. Originally Hasbro’s in-house market researcher, followed by brand and commercial roles. Conducted research with thousands of kids and parents and holds two market research qualifications. We’ve researched dozens of iconic and hit toy brands, kids entertainment content both in the UK, across Europe and beyond. Now leading consumer research Consultancy working with toy, game & kids entertainment brands. Toy & Game Playtesting Brand positioning research Advertising research Content/audience/interactive testing Following findings draw on direct consumer feedback AND broader kids entertainment brand knowledge and experience.
  3. 3. In recent times the topic of kids entertainment, toys and gender stereotyping has become contentious. Several leading retailers have changed in store signage from ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ to more descriptive labels following pressure on them from certain consumer groups. Toy companies appear to continue to look at the world of toys from the standpoint of ‘Boys’ & ‘Girls’ still. We wanted to gauge consumer opinion & to look at current reality of how kids entertainment brands and toy companies in particular are dealing with this issue to see whether companies are out of tune with ‘general’ majority consumer perceptions/opinions on this issue.
  4. 4. 1. Investigate how consumers view gender & gender stereotyping in toys and kids entertainment content. 2. Gauge whether toy & kids entertainment companies are out of step with the majority consumer perspective of this topic.
  5. 5. •All testing conducted in the UK only. •Testing via KBI’s proprietary KIDSPLAYTEST™ methodology. •KIDSPLAYTEST ™ takes a collection of toy/game/content into a UK school for live testing with kids. •KIDSPLAYTEST ™ runs once every school half term i.e. roughly once every 2 months. •Over several months we conducted 32 Qualitative discussion groups with children ages from 5-11. •For this project, we tested during multiple KIDSPLAYTEST™ sessions at schools in the South and North of the UK, and conducted additional In depth discussions with several dozen parents.
  6. 6. Steve Reece Steve’s Toy Industry Blog:
  7. 7. The extent to which gender differences are natural versus learnt (the nature/nurture debate) are beyond the scope of this study. However, there is no doubt based on both this project, but more broadly on our 16+ years of research with children and parents that gender stereotyping influences behaviour, preferences and consumption of children. Toy and kids content companies clearly play a part in re- enforcing that via colour coding and gender labelling. We wanted to find out whether this is a reflection of what consumers in this space want/accept, or whether it’s going against the grain of the majority…
  8. 8. In general, parents and children are overwhelmingly comfortable with/accepting/even encouraging of the accentuation of gender differences by kids entertainment content and toys. Many expressed confusion at why this would even be questioned – it’s just accepted as the way things are.
  9. 9. Steve Reece Steve’s Toy Industry Blog:
  10. 10. GIRLS BOYS •Overwhelmingly boys embrace gender stereotypes in terms of perceptions, preferences and behaviours i.e. active/physical/aggressive play, action and conflicts between good & evil. •Clear social compliance in effect i.e. for boys to make any positive association with girls , or things perceived to be ‘for girls’ , such as the colour pink ,leads to public humiliation for boys. •“Girls are rubbish!” “Err pink is rubbish coz it’s for girls!” •Overwhelmingly girls accept the gender stereotypes i.e. softer, more nurturing, often more creative play patterns and media preferences. •Those girls preferring more aggressive physical play (i.e. stereotypically ‘boy’ patterns) often have to deal with discouraging comments from parents/adults in general. •The majority of girls fully accept and embrace pink as ‘for girls’.
  11. 11. PARENTS •In most* cases parents are reinforcing stereotypes in some shape or form whether consciously or sub- consciously. •Generally accept gender stereotypes as they see the clear and obvious differences between men and women, despite centuries of social change. •Will occasionally challenge their own preconceptions when facing a specific issue with their children i.e. my son or daughters wants to do something and it’s not the done thing, but that isn’t going to stop my child! * Note: there are clearly exceptions , but they are exceptions to the overall general perception.
  12. 12. SURPRISE SURPRISE… •The same gender stereotyping in effect on the whole. •No significant change in attitudes of parents/kids in general. •General confusion at the stereotypes being questioned in terms of kids learning the expected role of their gender.
  13. 13. Steve Reece Steve’s Toy Industry Blog:
  14. 14. Pink is very clearly seen as being ‘for girls’. Positively embraced by the majority* of girls, positively rejected by the majority of boys. * Note, a small minority of girls don’t like/buy into the pink thing, but this research suggests that’s a small minority view...
  15. 15. •When we questioned several dozen kids and parents of both genders about the potentially excessive or offensive use of pink to label something as being for girls we found literally no individuals who objected, although we did find a few who opted out of the stereotype. •In general though, pink being ‘for girls’ was viewed as being practical and helpful when looking for things to buy for girls – in the same way as Department stores label gifts as ‘For Her’ or ‘For Her’.
  16. 16. Steve Reece Steve’s Toy Industry Blog:
  17. 17. Most boys & girls at that school expressed agreement/acceptance with these gender labels because they preferred the particular books they were being directed to. This book display was in a school library where we conducted some sessions of this research.
  18. 18. Based on negative PR around this issue, gender labelling clearly appears to strongly offend some people, but in general for the majority, based on our research, gender labelling is seen as a non issue at least, and often seen as useful/practical by kids and parents.
  19. 19. •It’s possible for sure, but there is a long way to go/major barrier to be hurdled before anything fundamentally changes, because… •…today’s parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adults were brought up with gender labelling/stereotyping as the norm, and they are at least as strong a factor as toy or kids entertainment companies based on this research. •Tomorrows parents are being brought up in a gender stereotyped world with adult and media influences encouraging/supporting/driving gender stereotypes.
  20. 20. Overall findings suggest clear majority acceptance of gender stereotypes in terms of roles adopted by boys and girls. This is supported/heavily influenced/reinforced by parents in most instances, although sometimes by default more than by design. For toy companies and kids content companies looking at investing at risk in products or programming this research supports a pragmatic approach geared towards supplying what most consumers want in terms of accepting/delivering on gender stereotypes, while avoiding blatant and overt gender labels likely to offend the minority who object to labelling/gender stereotyping. Those individuals who want to see social change, and are willing to invest at risk to try to buck the trend with stereotype busting products may find niche opportunity, and over time positively influence social change, but for most toy companies it seems risky to embrace this contrarian direction at this point in the absence of consumer sentiment/motivation/demand.
  21. 21. •KBI’s proprietary KIDSPLAYTEST™ methodology takes a collection of toy/game/content into a UK school for live testing with kids aged 5-11 years. •KIDSPLAYTEST ™ effectively operates as a qualitative omnibus - we take 3-4 separate products/TV shows/topics to test. •Delivering confidential top level consumer research/testing at budget price. By testing multiple products/projects, we ensure valuable insight delivered at fraction of cost of dedicated project for clients who wouldn’t necessarily access research otherwise. •You get what you pay for though – we can only test simpler concepts/products via this method. More complex products/content/projects will need standalone studies! •KIDSPLAYTEST ™ runs once every school half term i.e. roughly once every 2 months. •Open to all, but limited availability – strictly 1st come, 1st served, we do get booked in advance, plse contact us asap to book in. MORE INFORMATION:
  22. 22. More information/to book your products for consumer testing:
  23. 23. STEVE’s TOY INDUSTRY BLOG: Contact Us