Business ideas for 2017: Kidulthood

With rising popularity for experiences and products that help us regress to our youth, you could make a killing by maximising on childhood nostalgia…

Stress levels are soaring across the UK. In a survey of 2,000 Brits, National Accident Helpline found that 48% of people feel more stressed now than they did in January 2016, while 18% of UK workers are reported to have taken time off for stress.

To escape this stress and the drudgery of 9-5 life, a unique solution is being employed – namely taking the activities, toys and products that we once loved as kids and re-imagining them for grown-ups.

Brands, publishers, restaurants, and even nightclubs have begun to realise a longing among adults, particularly the millennial generation, for concepts that remind them of childhood; free of responsibilities and the worries of adult life.

We like to call this kidulthood – an umbrella term for nostalgic concepts that harness the power of the past to bring back childhood memories and offer up ‘big fun for big kids’ – and we predict that demand is going to surge in 2017…

Already, we’ve witnessed major growth in adult colouring books – ranging from the wacky (Colour in Eddie Redmayne) to the rude (the Adult Swearword Colouring Book for instance) and a resurgence in 90s fashion items; Ellesse clothing and chokers have both made a come back for instance. But it’s not just colouring books and fashions that have been re-interpreted for grown-ups.

In the last year, we’ve seen the launch of adult ball pit BallieBallerson, with wine and bottomless meatballs on offer, the opening of a ‘mega’ slide at the Olympic Park, the rise and rise of the Pokémon Go app, and afternoon tea with a twist at the ‘Madhatter’s Tea Party’.

One London duo have even created a monthly club night designed specifically with big kids in mind; Michael Mouch and Anna Herber’s aptly-named ‘Regression Sessions’ gives attendees access to space hoppers, a bouncy castle, ball pit and face paints.

Starting a kidulthood business: Why it’s a good business idea

Nostalgia plays into this trend heavily and there is evidence to show that businesses exploiting nostalgia marketing are more likely to get customers to part with their cash.

A study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that “consumers are more likely to spend money when they are feeling nostalgic.” The authors of the study conducted six experiments and found that consumers who were asked to think about the past were willing to pay more for a set of products than consumers who were asked to think about new or future memories:

“Nostalgia allows brands to quickly connect with their audiences when time is of the essence.”

Alongside these findings, research from YPlus shows that there is particular demand for kidulthood-related ventures among the millennial audience (18 to 34 years-old). YPlus reported that 88% of millennials were more likely to watch movies and shows that came out when they were kids, than current movies and shows.

While kidulthood has become more prevalent in the experience sector – you only need take a look at Playzone’s adult activities or grown-up parties like this – the food and drink industry has also witnessed burgeoning demand for products with a nostalgic twist.

In TUCO’s Global Food & Beverage Trends Report 2016, the catering body highlighted opportunities to reinvent classic childhood dishes and drinks “to create a sense of nostalgia to maximise on the current trends”:

“Giving a new lease of life to childhood treats and taking a trip down memory lane for many millennials, nostalgic twists over new versions of childhood favourites and bring a sense of indulgence into the everyday. From alcoholic milkshakes to Oreo delights, the list is endless.” TUCO says the trend is manifesting in many forms including “grown-up versions of childhood treats, [like alcoholic milkshakes and retro cocktails] and making use of childhood flavours like sherbert and marshmallows.”

Kidulthood-related business opportunities

The most obvious business opportunities to maximise on the growing ‘kidult’ generation lie in experiences and events.

Many businesses have launched in this sector with a sole focus on kidults such as Birmingham’s first soft play nightclub and The Play Factory in London which provides indoor climbing frames for adults.

For existing start-ups in the events/activity sector, kidulthood presents an opportunity to increase revenues by adding a new extension to your business. Diggerland for instance, a theme park where you can drive JCB diggers, was initially launched for children but now offers adult and corporate events.

James Marchant, co-founder and CEO of Just Opened, says the “experience economy is booming”: “Consumers are becoming more culturally curious and shunning material possessions for immersive and shared experiences. […] In fact, more people are looking for a slice of the experience economy as documenting their experiences on social media becomes more popular.”

Depending on your budget, you could launch your own restaurant or café for kidults (see the likes of Cereal Killer Café for inspiration here) or create a venue that combines typical activities with more niche elements like the ‘Regression Sessions’. Remember that kidulthood-inspired venues are primarily based in the capital so you’re bound to have a greater likelihood of success by considering regional launches.

The Cereal Killer Cafe's nostalgia marketing

The Cereal Killer Cafe’s nostalgia marketing

You should also keep in mind that innovation and creativity is essential for any kidulthood-related business venture. Writing in Forbes in August 2016, Lauren Friedman asserted that the key is to “create an emotional hook using nostalgia while also offering something new”.

Friedman pointed to Pokémon Go as the perfect example of mixing past and present; “ ‘Pokémon GO’ links a beloved story with the first real-life example of augmented reality. For many, playing the game satisfies dual criteria, innate happiness and exploration into something new and exciting.”

Insider opinion

Cereal Killer Café founders, Alan and Gary Keery, whose business is set to generate £1.4m turnover this year, have commented on the trend:

“Nostalgia, for us, is a big part of our business. We are reigniting people’s love for cereal that they first felt as a kid, when you had your arm in a box of cereal searching for the free toy. Our cafes are littered with hundreds of pieces of cereal memorabilia, from toys to skateboards to kites, we’ve got single beds with vintage duvet covers for people to chill out on, and a soundtrack of ’80s and ’90s guilty pleasures.

“Consumers these days aren’t just after a product, but the experience that goes with it, and what better experience than a trip back to the ‘90s, when life seemed less complicated.”

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