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A one-stop research operation for children's marketing-from focus group to finished concept. That's the premise behind Kid2Kid.

Kid2Kid is a joint venture between Fresh Kids, a Philadelphia-based market researcher specializing in children's research, and Zipatoni Co., a St. Louis promotion agency.

The 4-month-old venture was formed to knit together research, creative and marketing resources for clients. The organization has worked with four major companies to help develop marketing concepts, package design, new products and slogans.

"We are an incubator test group that helps brand managers validate concepts cost-efficiently and time-effectively," said Mitch Meyers, a principal of Kid2Kid.

Fresh Kids' and Kid2Kid's research specialty is focus groups consisting of young people.

Unlike most focus groups, which use adult moderators, Kid2Kid puts together youth-led groups and very unique research methods to better understand kids ages 8 to 18.

Marketing executives will tell you that the most unsuccessful focus groups they have run have been with kids, said Whiton Paine, president-CEO of Fresh Kids.

"The minute an adult walks in, the kids tend to turn into angels," he said. "Angels are not the people who buy. It's the little devil within the kid that is going for most of the purchases."

He cited as an example of a Kid2Kid project a toy marketer wanting to determine whether to introduce a line extension of its best-selling toy.

Zipatoni would design a character that represents the possible line extension to present to the children in the focus group. Such creations are called the stimuli.

Then, the Fresh Kids research group, which relies on both psychological and marketing techniques, would uses the stimuli to conduct the youth-led focus group. The marketer, researchers and promotional agency all take part in watching and participating in the focus group research.

Each focus group is led by two specially trained young people, usually a little older than the kids in the group; the leaders are wired to the researchers behind the two-way glass and prompted to ask questions and probe the participants.

The youth participants aren't just asked questions like in an adult-run focus group. The kids write stories or draw pictures to express how they feel about a concept. The participants are broken down into groups and asked to work together as teams.

With the new toy concept example, the groups of children would be asked to put the original character and the new character in a story. This would establish how the children felt about each character. Then the group would read their stories and the youth moderators ask questions.

To establish team unity and break tension between sessions, the children play games.

Mr. Paine believes that the Kid2Kid concept leads to more insightful information by reducing barriers that adult-run focus groups build.

"Insightful information is a direct consequence of kids being honest about their reactions, perceptions, opinions and emotions," he said. Leah Rickard coordinates Research News.

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