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The 3 Things Millennial Parents are Looking for in Kids Products

We will learn from this generation by listening to their larger dialogue with friends and brands alike about what is most important -- providing the very best products for their children so that they can successfully lead a new generation into the future.
03/15/2016 10:16am ET | Updated March 16, 2017
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The millennial generation is growing up, and now they are parents.

We all know the generalizations about their collective behavior -- from praise for commitment to social good, to the financial stressors imposed on this generation, to the uniformly accepted knowledge that this is a powerful and diverse cohort open to developing new brand loyalties.

There are 84 million U.S. adults between the ages of 18-34, and about one in four have children of their own. These little ones are being raised in homes and communities defined by new philosophies, trends and ways of connecting with others. Their parents are active participants and thoughtful consumers, especially when it comes to the brands they choose for their families.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about millennial parents. Currently, 83 percent of new moms are millennials. While it is not uncommon for today's young women to delay marriage, many are not willing to delay parenthood, opting to have kids with or without a partner. Research also shows that, when compared with previous generations of moms, millennial moms report spending upwards of nine additional hours per day on parenting-related activities.

To me, this trend points to something special about this generations' commitment to the parent-child relationship -- family is a priority and expectations are high. Combine this with other ways that millennials are moving the dial in the consumer space, like raising expectations and engagement, and you realize that we have a fertile environment for growth and innovation when it comes to building digital media for kids and reaching millennial parent consumers. And this is simply wonderful.

As Jeff Fromm has pointed out in his extensive research on millennial consumers, this group has adopted a different type of engagement with brands. There is a documented desire to personalize and share, and to truly shape one's own experience with products, services and the companies that create them. Reaching consumers is not just about delivering the perfect message or tagline; it is about the dialogue around co-creating and truly demonstrating brand values.

I see three key areas when creating products and resources for millennials and their families that support the needs of our newest parents while also sparking our own corporate growth and creativity:

Utility: Think Amazon Prime, or fitness trackers. They are quick and easy, leveraging data in smart, seamless and intuitive ways. With a couple of taps on your mobile device a package is on its way or your workout is logged and analyzed. To support parents who care deeply about active participation in their children's daily learning, this appreciation for what is now known as "the quantified self" opens opportunity for us to deliver content that is targeted and developmentally appropriate for their children. More than ever, we are able to reach parents directly and build social communities via mobile-friendly and platform agnostic tools -- link content recommendation engines or filters, trackers to measure time spent playing, or parallel resources that give families ideas for fun away from the screen.

Authenticity: Millennial parents are more attuned to marketing jargon than previous generations. They want to feel good about purchases, and often add a layer of social-consciousness to buying decisions. Companies with clear sustainability practices, transparent production processes or mission-driven giving campaigns (I.E. those who practice what they preach) now rise above those who rely on gimmicks. Formulas can be simple. Take for instance, the popular eyewear provider Warby Parker which was founded with the ethos that glasses should be affordable, fashionable and accessible, while prioritizing a highly-personalized customer experience.

Likewise, the formula for creating media for young kids should be about joy, curiosity and playful learning. If we let our passion for igniting imagination and fun through the creation of amazing kids' content, speak for itself, authenticity will shine through.

Authority: As engaged brand participants, today's parents will not simply accept authority at face-value. They have taken on an "infosumer" identity, looking to websites like Google and Yelp to validate any and all of their purchasing decisions. By researching and seeking insight from peers and online influencers, they are able to measure their own experiences carefully, from cost-savings to customer service.

To demonstrate credibility, established companies can't rest on their laurels, but must evolve by earning the mantle of authority with this new generation. For example, we can expand reach and engage kids in new ways, while satisfying a parent's need for streaming and on-demand access to downloadable content, with games and books tied to key building blocks based on early learning principles. In this way, parents will know their kids are learning while being entertained.

The bottom line is this: Millennial parents are aware, informed and engaged. They know that what their children consume matters, whether it's the food they eat or their favorite TV show or video game. In this age of increasing screen time, instant downloads and more programming than ever claiming educational benefits, the old adage stands, it is quality over quantity that matters.

Millennial parents are upping the ante and giving us new benchmarks to meet. By raising expectations, these parents bring a unique POV to the consumer space and are ultimately helping drive the creation of more innovative, sophisticated and foundationally sound resources for kids and their families.

As content creators and curators who prioritize the user experience, we can cut through the marketplace noise, make deeper connections with millennial families and strengthen the impact of our products by being active participants and change agents. We will learn from this generation by listening to their larger dialogue with friends and brands alike about what is most important -- providing the very best products for their children so that they can successfully lead a new generation into the future.