Gen Z are consistently shown to be the most connected generation, with more access to the wider world than any generation prior. Parents are raising a demographic of digital natives, who are consistently shown to be inquisitive, empathetic, and engaged with societal issues.
As the US prepares for the presidential election in November, kids are exposed to political campaigns across many of their favorite brands. We already know they are growing up in an increasingly aware generation, fears over bullying (+125%), school safety (+143%) and racism (+415%) growing substantially over the past nine months alone. Kids’ concern for such issues imply a huge level of awareness, as well as media saturation of political discourse, indicates they will likely invest a keen interest in the election.
A notable move into political awareness comes from Mattel, in the form of a new range of Barbie dolls, the Barbie Campaign Team. This new range sees Barbie’s political journey take her from the polls to the podium, featuring a voter, a candidate, a campaign manager, and campaign fundraiser, and follows as the seventh time Barbie has ‘run for political office’ since 1992. This exemplifies Mattel’s longevity in exposing children to aspirational roles through play time. With Barbie currently ranking as the second favorite toy among preschoolers in the US, it is clear of the toys’ wide audience reach and influencing power.
Looking in Kids Insights data at 3-9 year old girls who play with Barbies, this demographic are more likely to aspire to work in a medical profession such as doctor (+12%), or nurse (+51%), as well as being more likely to consider STEM careers such as architect (+246%) or scientist (+15%). This illustrates Barbie fans as an ambitious demographic, suggesting an enhanced level of awareness.
The new Barbie collection also includes a black woman, in the interest of inclusivity and to make sure girls of any age, background or race are encouraged to strive towards big goals. 2020 has been a year for reflection for brands after the Black Lives Matter movement gained widespread attention in May, and as such many have looked to fulfil their moral obligation to strive for inclusivity beyond performative activism, ensuring diversity at every content stage. Mattel’s inclusion of a black doll in this range in the right direction, but it is what they prove beyond the product that will truly resonate.
Mattel’s work with non-profit organization She Should Run is exemplary of their work to actively encourage positive roles for young girls. The organization provide guidance and support to women who are considering running for office, and with funding from the Barbie Dream Gap project, She Should Run has been able to create the ‘Help Her Lead’ course. The course facilitates conversations around leadership, and focuses on the importance of guidance and the power of role models, indicating it as the ideal tool for parents to utilize when speaking in particular to their daughters. 20% of teen girls in the US express concern over gender equality, compared to 9% of their male counterparts, illustrative of how the work of She Should Run and other organizations can prove integral in achieving a more level playing field.
Mattel’s new Barbie campaign range illustrates brands can nurture ambitious playtime for children as young as three, while mobilizing the new generation of voters and encouraging them to take interest in politics. Mattel is cultivating play time that goes far beyond the here and now, instead providing resources to engage with future aspirations, as well as providing parents with tools to discuss power and leadership with their children.
Another hugely influential name in the kids’ space is Snapchat, used by 30% of tweens and teens in the US – illustrative of 11.2m kids. In August, Snapchat launched a set of new tools, which encouraged users to vote, as well as a library of resources which afforded users easy access to election information. Snapchat’s approach of providing voting information in a visually captivating way exemplifies how social media is the ideal platform through which to engage with potential new voters. Cell phones are the most commonly owned device among 10-18s in the US (60%), illustrative of how social media is constantly accessible for them.
Snapchat recently announced it has helped over one million young people to vote, exemplifying the huge influence social media has. Looking beyond this, by providing snackable content surrounding the election Snapchat are allowing younger users who aren’t yet older enough to vote to educate themselves on how voting works, ultimately equipping them with a stronger political skillset for their future.
The integration of voting tools exemplifies the natural progression from exposure to politics through toys for younger members of the generation, to more informed information across the social platforms teens frequent the most. Both Mattel and Snapchat are setting an example for other kid-favorite names to engage in politics, encourage kids to become more aware of the wider world all the while mobilizing a new generation of voters to take the future into their own hands.
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