Photofy CEO – and father – John Andrews on why parents banning their kids from games like Fortnite might be counterproductive, and that to ease nervous parents’ minds, marketers should be proactive in transforming a product that’s Parental Advisory, into one that’s Parental Recommended.
“I think our daughter plays too much Fortnite,” my wife remarked recently.
“Uh, yeah, I know that,” I replied slowly as my face was buried in my phone.
This sparked a very interesting conversation on what’s the best parenting approach for electronic usage in general, an ongoing topic in our home. As anyone with a tween/teen knows, they are *ahem*, heavy users of digital media and electronics, particularly mobile devices. Our family’s approach is that there are no ‘right’ answers; the rapid evolution of the space requires constant monitoring and evaluation. A little humble realization that our children likely know more about the platforms than we do doesn’t hurt either.
Our discussion included a range of options for limiting her Fortnite obsession to completely banning her having the game. I’m not a big fan of zero electronics approaches as platforms like Fortnite, Instagram and Snapchat have become social channels for Gen Z. Not having access or experience is analogous to being somewhat illiterate in a form of communication. However, like any behavior, too much of anything is unhealthy and many of our young folks are spending WAY too much time with faces in phones vs. you know, talking to real people.
Marketers could help this but they aren’t. It would be easy to say that they are intentionally hooking our kids but l don’t think that’s the fact. The average American still watches five-plus hours of TV – it’s not the platform, it’s human nature. The dopamine of entertainment plus connection is a strong behavioral force. The challenge to the platforms is one of apathy. Headlines like ‘Parenting the Fortnite Addict’, a recent New York Times article, scare the living hell out of parents and engender guilt and shame. Fortnite, like Snapchat becomes vilified as evil. This is no more true than TV is evil. Anything that becomes an obsession can become unhealthy, even healthy pursuits like exercise or diets.
Fortnite has some amazing benefits. Teamwork and spatial ability are hallmarks of the game. Much like Minecraft, the game also helps kids with problem solving and creativity skills that will be critical for future jobs. Business communication platform Slack operates on a social network that is much more aligned with the way people are communicating today. In stark contrast to the asynchronous nature of email which is back and forth, Slack’s real time and transparency of communication promotes teamwork instead of “CYA”. Fortnite is great preparation for these types of systems. The platform could benefit from controlling its narrative before other media leverage fear for ratings and attention.
This has always been an opportunity for marketers with younger audiences. Parents are the gate keepers, marketing to THEM is often critical to avoid some amount of hysteria over products kids are consuming. Being proactive will not only help avoid some of the cray-cray, but also potentially offer an expansion of brand equity. This same approach helps a variety of industries from music, to fashion, to clothes and games. After all, parent dollars are the primary source of funds for most kids’ purchases. An integrated marketing approach to the user and the approver/funder makes sense.
Many parents may make the decision to simply ban their kids from popular games and social sites. There are many great forums and discussion boards to help guide these decisions like Common Sense Media, which has almost 400 reviews from parents and kids on Snapchat alone. As discussed earlier, the downside of completely forgoing social platforms like Fortnite is being handicapped from a common social interaction channel – and the learning that comes along with it. As with any parenting activity, teaching your kids about the reality and pitfalls of these platforms, and helping them to make good decisions, will serve them well later in life.
Some recommended approaches for marketers:
- Listen: Use the trove of conversations on social media to understand what concerns and objections might be.
- Share: Include common parental questions in FAQs, blogs, etc.
- Participate: Get involved in forums and conversations directly.
- Design: Create some controls for concerned parents like daily usage limits and parental restriction controls. Build special versions for younger kids.
- Communicate: Proactively create content ahead of objections. Think like the consumer instead of simply as a marketer.