At Disneymedia+ we recently undertook a project with research agency aevolve, taking a journey inside the lives of UK families to explore the different dynamics at play and ultimately really understand what today’s families want from entertainment.
We wanted to find out if their needs are being met and how we can best communicate with them in the future.
I’m sure this will come as no surprise; family life can be all-consuming for parents, especially for those with children aged 6-11 in the prime of childhood.
While it can be the most fulfilling time, we found that parents are likely to be extremely time poor.
There are weekday pressures with work, school, homework and after-school activities, then there are weekends, which despite being less structured, see time further filled with ‘chauffeur’ duties between clubs, parties or other special occasions as well as commitments to extended family and friends.
Therefore family time without any external commitments is often welcomed as an opportunity for shared time together. We found that entertainment has a particularly important role to play in this.
For one thing, it fills the gaps until the next obligation but it’s also used to fulfil what we identified as five key emotional needs.
Families use entertainment to satisfy the emotional need for connecting. Getting to know each other as individuals and bonding. Shared entertainment moments place everyone on the same level, there is no one in charge and everyone is equal.
The next emotional need is fun. The ability to switch off a little and simply share in each other’s enjoyment is the key; finding entertainment that is fun for all and makes everybody happy. It provides escapism and is a core component for building happy memories.
Next is development. This includes self-development whereby children’s skill sets - physical, mental and social - can be broadened by entertainment, aiding their understanding of the world and general learning and education. Self-expression is another key element, since identity and individuality help children develop a sense of place in the world. Play and creativity are key here.
A crucial emotional need from entertainment is accomplishment. Competition and accomplishment of goals are really important for children. Accomplishment develops problem solving and strategic skills as well as social pride and peer recognition, helping develop a child’s autonomy and highlighting the importance of shared goals.
And of course, the final, base emotional need entertainment delivers is one of comfort - providing safety and routine. It’s a functional everyday role of entertainment. It’s a distraction, a tool for passing time or alleviating boredom.
So for families, entertainment is incredibly important. It’s far more than just something to do; it helps ensure they are functioning and developing as both a family and individuals.
So which entertainment platforms can fulfil these needs? Our research saw that two entertainment vehicles universally covered off the most of these needs for both adults and children.
The first was family console gaming; systems such as the Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii, which can be played together in a family group.
The second was family movies; specifically ones that straddle the line of appealing to both children and adults.
But what does this mean then for brands wanting to connect with families? The best way, we believe, is to not just be part of these shared entertainment moments, but to find ways to expand and enrich them.
Deepening the emotional connection with families and supporting them in their busy lives is what helps brands grow.
Despite the rapidly expanding reach of social media, our research showed that almost 90% of conversations still happen face-to-face.
What’s more, these are the most honest conversations people have. Among families, word of mouth consistently comes out as more influential than any brand advertising in terms of taking notice of products or services - and amongst all product sectors, after food, entertainment dominates these conversations.
Entertainment helps create emotional connections, which are also important in a purchase decision - these help buyers bypass habitual decision making and provide a short-cut for making new choices and bringing about a new pattern of behaviour.
Once an emotional connection is formed with a brand, this drives preference, fuels affinity and can become its own self-fulfilling loop.
From buying washing powder to buying a car, we see parents rely on feeling rather than facts much more than the average adult, because they just don’t have time to find all the facts.
We can see that if you find a way to engage, enrich or support families, then your brand can become an addition to their busy lives.
We’ve only completed the first stage of our exploratory research and there’s more to come. It’s vital to us to understand family lives in full, and what they would like from their entertainment.
Certainly, our research indicates loud and clear that enabling a message to grow organically from the heart of the family is more effective than trying to influence from the outside.