Influencer marketing is amazing. There might be questions about attribution and performance, but for a generation of consumers who value their personal connections above all else, validation from all forms of “friends” is priceless. But there’s another growing part of the picture, especially for brands seeking to influence households, because the most powerful influencer in the land is the child in the home. However, the nature of their influence is not about toys and sweets. Today’s kids are asking for a better world, and brands can help them, and their parents.
Welcome to the Kidocracy.
It’s no secret that millions of kids love influencers. All types of influencers, on all types of platforms. They are likely to see them more as friends than celebrities, more like big siblings than unreachable gods and goddesses. This, of course, is one of the secrets of influencer marketing. Influencers give the appearance they are messaging and endorsing from inside the “friendship” group, but they are more expert, more eloquent – or maybe just a bit better looking. Even as young as 9 or 10, the current generation of kids are highly aware of the influencer business model. Like us, they can spot a clunky endorsement a mile off, and will trust the influencer less as a result. These misses will erode their friendship a little at a time.
The parents of our Beano.com audience are highly likely to be millennials, and that brings a host of interesting parenting styles to accompany evolving educational practices, early digital exposure, and a rocky geo-political landscape in shaping today’s kids. “Generation Alpha” follows Gen Z with the first of them born in 2010 - the year the iPad was launched. They will turn 10 in 2020, and there will be 2 billion of them by 2025. And they are already powerful.
To use marketing speak, kids now have dramatically more “share of voice” in the household than ever before. They are powerful leaders of the new kidocracy, and they are using it to influence all sorts of facets of family life. When I grew up in the late 80s / early 90s, kids were using what little sway we had to get whichever Transformer had just hit the shelves of Toys R Us. Thankfully, today’s children are quite different. Greater share of voice in the household means kids are having greater influence in wider family decisions, over anything from holiday destinations (nearly 80% of our Beano.com audience influence that decision), days out and entertainment choices, car purchases to the big shop.
What is perhaps most fascinating, however, is the indications that with great influencing power comes a really early and urgent sense of collective responsibility. 40% of beano.com users (6-14s) said they felt it was their sole responsibility to save the planet. Not politicians, or their parents and teachers. Kids are increasingly taking the role of the lobbyist in the home - blazing the trail for climate change, sustainability, social cohesion, mental health and other real world issues.
They are passionate about the planet, plastics and green technology. They are passionate about society, and have much greater acceptance of social difference around definitions of gender or race. They are digital masters of data security, voice technology and are showing early inclination to better delineate the online/offline world than their parents who splashed their whole lives across the free internet.
Generation Alpha are not yet old enough to be at high school, but they are already armed with the passion and uncorrupted raw values to make a real difference in the world. They are a bit different to your typical influencer too. They are far more likely to be joining a climate change protest than saying to hell with air miles, and instagraming on a far-flung beach. They are more inspired by Greta Thunberg than Zoella.
They are also extremely assiduous decision makers. From entertainment, to the brands they choose to consume. Contrary to an outsider view of youth, their attention span is staggeringly long for the few activities and entertainment properties who make it into the hard-to-access inner circle. Their passion for brands is similarly hard to access, but fierce when earned. It burns very brightly indeed.
Of course, at the same time these are children leading normal everyday children’s lives, they do still want toys, sweets, to be accepted, and they still need guidance in every facet of their lives. They simultaneously live in their small bubbles and domestic soap opera but hold huge newly articulated passions for the wider world. In most cases they have no idea how to make the difference. That pressure lies on their parents, their teachers, on government, but also on brands.
So how do brands empower parents to realise their kids’ passions and positivity? How do they empower this incredible generation of kids to make the changes? It’s a truism that each generation will change the world, but the story here is the opportunity for brands to help this generation change the world sooner than any other. Now that’s influence.
Iain Sawbridge is chief marketing officer of Beano Studios.