Kidfluencer Market- A Dormant Space For Indian Brands?

Quick glance at how the Indian kids influencer market is unfolding in the current times, with brands yet to milk its full potential

What’s common between Nihal Rajagopalan, Anantya Anand, Aariv Jhaveri and Kiara Nautiyal? Well, these little digital natives are taking the internet by storm, having generated a massive fan base for themselves, just like any other Bollywood superstar. 

Giving credence to a report titled Indian Kids Digital Insights 2019 by Totally Awesome, an international children’s digital media company — 73 percent of children consuming digital content ask their parents to buy something because of a child influencer’s endorsement. Further, over 80 percent of parents buy things their kids want because they were advertised by a child influencer, the study stated. 

With easy and unprecedented access to the world wide web today, it is evident that the kid influencer market is burgeoning and is incessantly breeding one of the fastest-growing online audiences- kids. Backed with great content and exceptional crowd-pulling skills, this new kidtech ecosystem is gradually becoming every brand’s favorite. In fact, the world is looking up to them as marketing’s newest power brokers. While we all agree on this category’s swelling growth globally, it is still at its nascent stage in India and envisions a long journey ahead. 

Mapping Its Journey

The western world warmed up to the concept of kids being influencers almost a decade ago. India may be a slow-mover in this respect, however, the trend of children influencing purchases is on an upswing, especially because parents are being more supportive and culturally open. While it is quite difficult to pinpoint the exact moment of its emergence, experts believe that it was the obsession around Taimur Ali Khan that initiated this trend around 2016. 

Alongside, exposure to international media, opportunity to monetise content, penetration of broadband and a healthy and young population who look to emulate their icons helped create a sweet spot for the kidfluencer category to cement itself.

Richa Singh, CEO & Co-founder, Blogchatter quips that in the last decade, top aspirations for kids under ten have gone from being an astronaut and a doctor to being an influencer and a Youtuber. "This change is obviously not going to go without visible impact - the rising growth of kid influencers is representative of these shifting ambitions. Also, parents themselves are aligned on social media being that big ticket item to fame or money and often they themselves encourage their kids to take it up early to that effect.”

Joji George, Founder, Gonuts admits that kids look up to influencers in pop culture to validate their buying decisions, given that the Indian market for only kids apparel was valued at around US15 billion with a CAGR of around 14-15%. “This by extension also means their parents who follow their icons and kids and are influenced to make purchasing decisions. India is a far cry from the west in actual numbers and engagement of influencers. Bollywood Star power, celebrity couple children lead the pack and once that crosses over into regular kids creating content that becomes popular, that’s where we truly have kids influencers,” he says.

Given the explosion of media, products and services, the market is only going to grow and research suggests that this ad market will grow in excess of US 2 billion at 37-40% of total ad spends in the coming years.

Manish Solanki, COO and co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea too observes that the Indian counterparts in the kidtech ecosystem are meagre, when juxtaposed globally. “Indian households still want their kids to study and excel in academics because it is seen as a sure shot way to a secured future. That is probably the reason why a very small percentage of kids are a part of reality shows. Social influencer is just an extension of that. Indian numbers compared to international numbers and also compared to the population is a minuscule sliver.”

Mental Health & Safety Concerns Continue

While the business and creative side of the whole kid influencer market looks glittering, this space has often raised questions on impelling harsh mental and security impacts on these little ones. The race of likes and the toxicity of comments are impacting them in more ways than one. From comparing mark sheets to comparing virality, comment sections, its makes kids sail through phases of dejection and demotivation.

George points that this is the stark dark side of the other side of the same coin. “On one hand, we see the tremendous opportunity of content driving sale of products and services and on the other hand, the pressure to provide these products, services to kids and the peer pressure both patents, and kids face. This is the reality that is often not discussed with honesty.

There are numerous cases of kids threatening to take harsh steps if they are not given what they want. We label it as pester power, but the implications on the mind and personality of the child have far-reaching effects,” he asserts.

Singh also agrees it is a double-edged sword, “While on one hand it makes the kid famous overnight, the downside of this phenomenon is akin to any industry involving kids at an early stage.”

Takeaway For The Brands

Major brands are revving their marketing engines, partnering with these kid influencers and packing a powerful marketing punch to their kitty. Recently, Mattel shifted 50% of its marketing spend to digital while MGA Entertainment and Larian moved even more of their dollars to digital. 

Internationally, giants like Target & Walmart have had exclusive tie-ups with them but in India, this seems rather untapped. It is yet to gather steam for Indian brands to explore new horizons of engaging with kid influencers and look beyond a sales-driven approach.

Shuchi Sethi, India Lead - AnyTag, POKKT comments, “We have seen an increase in the kid influencer categories majorly in the toy review space but this is one area that has to be explored a lot more and yet to be established.”

She also feels that this industry is going to grow in the coming years, “We have seen a huge growth in this category. It is just a matter of time when we will see this category becoming bigger.”

Solanki is also optimistic that the kid influencer industry will go upwards. However, this space must not get the fuel. “Kids are supposed to play, study and have fun and not get stuck in this social media wormhole,” he maintains.

He further alerts that brands must ensure that they don’t make these kids say or do things that they won’t let their own kids do.

While there's a long road for the marketers ahead, the industry will gradually pick up and a lot will depend on the kind of interest the audience will show to the type of content that this young breed of creators is going to offer. Broadly, we are hopeful to see an explosion of hyper-local influencers, regulated by a dedicated body of experts in the coming times.