Talking like children

29 July 2008 at 5:24 pm 1 comment

Jake Goretzki writes:

I couldn’t help noticing recently just how widespread ‘childlike Innocence’ in visuals and creative has become in UK advertising. This was brought home to me sharply last week when I collected a friend’s elderly mother at Gatwick. She’d flown to the UK from Bosnia, and seeing the billboards at the railway station, remarked with mild horror that ‘your banks even have advertising for children here!’. Looking again, it occurred to me just how much of today’s communication, stylistically,  might be thought at first glance to be aimed at the average 8 year old.

I’m talking about simple, bold colours.  Geometric shapes: circles and squares. A degree of studied low production and naivety too – some ads looking like screenprints or even potato prints.  Lots of cutesiness too, through cartoon and animated characters. Cutesy animals, bunnies and teddies scurrying everywhere.

This may be nothing more than a current fashion in print advertising, reaching across campaigns and agencies. Fashions come and go: an earlier one was ‘punter + message on cardboard sign’, stolen from DA Pennebaker, last used by Apple Mac but also favoured by banksn. Another is ‘subversion of everyday lettering’ (one of the thrills of Photoshop), where lettering on photo-real shopfronts / street signs / embroidery is altered to carry the message and force a double-take (last seen in UK anti-smoking advertising and still going strong).

For all the ubiquity of this style though, ‘childlike innocence’  clearly strikes a chord with consumers and chimes closely with several current trends. It reveals a lack of patience in consumers’ ‘stop go lives’ for complexity, heavy copy and detail. It also reflects a caginess about risk and uncertainty, particularly potent in the realm of financial services, which means that clarity, hypersimplicity and even innocence can reassure.  While this might seem to be a great opportunity for marketers and communicators grow up and ditch the bunnies, in recessionary times ‘talking to you like children’ begins to feel even more resonant. It’s a cosy bedtime story and a tucking in.

Entry filed under: brands, children, marketing.

Brand impressions Growing support

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. steve mellor  |  6 November 2008 at 10:50 am


    I couldn’t agree more. I see this child like style reflected more and more, especially in soft drinks packaging.

    I guess it started with Innocent. So many brands have sought to capture the simplistic style – and consumers read confidence, naturalness and transparency into the simplicity.

    And today I see in Marketing Magazine that Pepsi have unveiled a new logo that taps into childlike friendliness – it’s designed to portray smiles and looks really cute. I think its appeal, as you allude to, lies in the inherent opposition to our fast and complicated lives.



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The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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