Does the inner kid hold value?

Last weekend I finally got around to going to the excellent Digital Decode exhibition at the V&A museum which explores data, interactivity and networks. Some commentators have suggested that it’s an interesting show due to the way it deals with reflections, or the very transient nature of the exhibition, which is constantly changing and evolving according to visitors’ input.

Whilst I agree both of these things are interesting aspects, what really struck me was the magical way digital interactivity created enthusiasm and child-like behaviour in many of the visitors. As one person remarked to me as we were gesturing wildly to manipulate a digital canvas with an array of colours, in any other context people would think we look pretty crazy.

The idea of unlocking the inner child was also brought up in this week’s episode of Heston Blumenthal’s Feasts, in which he created a giant edible gingerbread house – specifically designed to elicit child-like behaviour. We’ve seen many campaigns over the last year trying to create nostalgic feelings such as Wispa’s relaunch. This all begs the question is there any value for brands and businesses, in encouraging consumers to take a step beyond nostalgia and actually encouraging them to feel like a real kid again?

If you watch young children interacting with the world, they often have extreme reactions to anything new in their environment. Whether something makes them laugh, smile or cry, it seems to be a much stronger reaction than when you present something new to an adult.

With many people dealing with stressful jobs and busy home lives, being able to escape from your day to day environment is understandably compelling. Many brands would love for adults to show strong child-like reactions as the participants on Heston’s TV show did and visitors to Digital Decode did. So what can brands learn from this and how can they harness this perspective?

One of the reasons young children have such strong reactions is because everything is so new and different, as opposed to adults who may feel they have experienced it all before. So part of making the most of the adult’s inner child (and their enthusiasm) must be being more innovative and surprising in order to warrant people’s attention.

I saw two very nice examples of using surprise on the Cream blog this week. The first was a campaign to tackle drink driving, a notoriously hard subject. Where the agency involved took a very different approach, by adding the cost of drink driving accidents to the bottom of bar tabs. The other was a deceptively simple idea (also picked up on a number of other excellent blogs  including the digital buzz blog and design you trust); IBM set up an interactive billboard which changed colour according to what the person stood in front of it was wearing.

Clearly to get this kind of cut through may be easier said than done. But the idea of approaching a problem from a new perspective and trying to elicit a different response by appealing to the inner child is certainly an interesting approach.


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