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What our kids can teach us? Purpose over Persuasion

22 September, 2014 - Source: Animl

Richard Neville, founder of Animl, talks about the need for brands to focus on purpose rather than persuasion. 

  • The Eyeview Camera
    The Eyeview Camera

My 9-year old twins are very different beings to me. Not only because they were ‘born digital’ and therefore their use of technology and digital experience is inbuilt in their DNA, while I have been evolving myself to make myself fit for purpose in the digital age! The difference is more fundamental. Through all their playing, their mess and the chaos - they are overwhelmingly curious, possessed with an innate desire to learn and absorb. Much more capable of being influenced by everything they are exposed. If marketers were to look at children closely - this is what they can learn: (borrowing from Oscar Wilde) ‘Be yourself because everyone else is taken.’

These are not just my random thoughts. As a parent, as a consumer, and as a contributor to our creative industries, I want to live in a world in which we are preparing our children to deal with whatever life throws at them.

I want to live in a world where brands look at where they can help and contribute and where they focus on social purpose over superficial persuasion.

That is why I recently started my own business – to help brands put good things into the world. We’re a small company of film makers, inventors and storytellers, and we've been working with one of Unilever's biggest global brands, the “Dirt Is Good” group. Working with Unilever's Persil brand for the past year and a half, I've been on a journey to discover how childhood is changing in the 21st Century. And I've been learning how the old assumptions about how to bring up our kids may be doing them a serious disservice.

How did we do this?

At Animl, we created the Kids Today Project to look at the complex nature of child development in a really simple way. We set out to see the world from a child’s point of view. We invented a unique camera system called the "eyeView”. This is a head-mounted camera that is light enough for even a two year old to wear, and high quality enough to really highlight the difference between being a six foot adult and a three foot child. We had great fun with it.

We saw how big the world looks when you're that little. We saw how much faster it feels to run when your point of view is so low to the ground. And we saw how children focus on a different set of things to adults. It’s a relief to know that kids are not actually as crazy as they look. They just have a completely different way of seeing the world. Our project gave me a new appreciation of the world my kids live in. We were lucky enough to meet children in all manner of situations, locations and cultures around the world. We went to super-urban Brazil, suburban India, rural Indonesia, and around my own home country, the UK.

And across all of these differences in circumstance - through all the playing and the studying and the mess and the chaos - one common theme stood out: Children’s overwhelming desire to learn.

So what did we learn? And how can we apply those lessons to modern brands?

1. Be Yourself. It is a simple enough lesson, but how many brands are genuine? How many marketers focus on keeping it real and honest?

2. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Children are the world’s greatest learners. And they make mistakes all the time. Mistakes are an essential part of the toolkit that drives progress. If you’re too scared to make mistakes, you may as well never try anything new. Mistakes move things forward!

3. Be playful. The science of data and technology and the pressure to persuade our consumer to buy us, follow us and like us has somewhat distracted all us away from the real reason why we are in this industry. It is fun, creative, and more importantly allows us to be part of a social change. So what is stopping us from being playful, being more inventive and even making a few mistakes along the way?

I'm proud to be involved with a big brand that is focusing on purpose over persuasion - working to help create a brighter future for our kids. For Unilever's “Dirt Is Good” initiative, there’s more of the journey to come.

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