This holiday season, kids everywhere will be pestering their parents and anyone else who might listen for toys, tech, and more. But their influence on purchases goes well beyond the holidays.
In a global survey of 8,000 parents from communications company Hotwire, 65% of participants said the habits and needs of their children influenced their last purchase. That number increased to 81% in the US.
The survey also showed that 27% of parents across the globe ask their kids’ opinions before buying technology such as a new tablet, laptop, or phone. That number rose to 38% for British parents.
Today’s fast-paced, connected world means generation alpha — kids eight-years-old and under — are digital natives. Their comfort with the online world and all things tech pushes their requests beyond pester power to palpable influence.
As a result, kids aren't just influencers; they're often decision makers when it comes to buying the latest technology. Brands need to realize this, but they also need to go about marketing to generation alpha safely.
Michael Berberich, director of content innovation at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), said it’s smart for brands to treat children like CEOs.
“It's almost like they're a B2B decision-maker. You're never really trying to sell them. You're trying to educate them and get them talking about your brand, your product, your channel, whatever it is. They're a major decision maker, but they're not necessarily the buyer,” said Berberich.
Making education a central theme to a campaign is a valuable way of engendering trust among parents and children while avoiding the possible pitfalls of advertising to minors.
According to the survey, 26% of parents believe their kids value their mobile devices more than any other possession, and 48% of parents think technology is having a negative impact on the amount of exercise their kids get. However, 75% of parents think the technology their kids are using will benefit their future careers.
When marketing to parents, brands will find success by tapping into these concerns and attempting to bridge any skill gap between parent and child, Hotwire’s global head of consumer Emma Hazan asserts.
“Brands need to help educate. Where they can tap into parents is by saying..., 'Your kids live and breathe technology, but that doesn't mean they have to be the ones that have more knowledge than you. You need to upskill and understand what's important, what safety features you should be using, why you should be concerned about privacy.'
"Help parents. That makes you a brand that's worth talking to and building relationship loyalty with,” said Hazan.
When marketing to children, brands need to balance brand safety with reach and influence. According to the survey, 36% of parents say their kids are influenced by their friends’ possessions and 14% say their kids are swayed by online influencers.
Brands undoubtedly have concerns over breaking the rules when marketing to kids, but there is still significant value in working with kid influencers, some of whom have millions of subscribers on YouTube.
“How do you engage a kid influencer who reviews toys? You send them a toy, say you're a big fan and tell them they'd love you to review it. [To] activate kid influencers, you just throw your hat in the ring and hope for the best,” ANA's Berberich said.
He added that companies need to clearly explain to kid influencers that they don’t expect anything in exchange for a product review.
This focus on education, brand awareness, and content marketing is similar to the strategies for marketing to millennials that confounded advertisers in years past who were caught flat-footed reacting to the behaviors of a new set of consumers, Berberich explained.
As marketers look to get ahead of understanding how to reach this next generation of spenders, and as campaign strategies make ROI less provable, there will need to be a shift of mindset in the C-suite.
“How do you show the ROI before giving away a bunch of toys? The unfortunate thing for brands is you don't,” said Berberich.
“This is a bigger conversation. There needs to be a recalibration across the C-suite into what's reasonable, where we can expect to see things go… I think that it's going to take some discipline by the C-suite because [marketing to generation alpha] is in the very beginning. This isn't murky waters. This is you can get in serious trouble very quickly. There's no walking it back.”
The Drum took a look at the world of 'kidfluencers' in its November 2018 magazine issue on The Secret Life of Kids.