Young consumers have (pestering) power, money and networks

Hello and apologies for the long silence. What can I say? I have been on holidays, with the family. While I planned to write a couple of posts during the holidays, our days ended up being too busy – and wi-fi access too patchy – for that to happen.

During the family holidays I was acutely reminded of how pester power drives behaviour. Pester power refers to children’s ability to drive their parents to do something (usually purchase a product) through nagging. According to various authors, pester power effectiveness seems to increase with:

  • Parental absence
  • The presence of guilty feelings
  • Parents’ age
  • Children’s age

These findings don’t bode well for me, do they?


Not only do children influence parent’s purchase but, increasingly, they have their own disposable income, too (think pocket money, for instance) which they tend to spend on themselves. Moreover, they are the adult consumers of tomorrow. Children are a very important demographic segment for marketers and it is no surprise that marketers actively target this segment, bypassing parents and talking directly to children. The amount spent in marketing to this group has more than doubled in the last 20 years, in the US alone, and come along way from the Mr Potato Head TV toy adverts from the 1950s:


Despite the attractiveness of this segment, it is not easy to reach it. There are legal constraints as well as practical restrictions.


One such practical restriction is that children are heavily influenced by their social networks. Hence, the most effective way to access this valuable segment is to get access to the child’s physical social network and generate viral reactions… easier said that done. But, here, too technological and social developments are changing the rules of marketing.


In recent years, the use of the Internet has exploded among children and teenagers. According to statistics of the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, around 65% of 5-7 year olds, 85% of 8-11 year olds and 93% of 12-15 year olds accessed the Internet at home on a desktop or laptop, in 2011. The numbers for access via a mobile phone are: 9% for children aged 8-11 years old, and 29% for those aged 12-15. Moreover, 3% of 5-7 year olds have an active profile on an electronic social network. The rate of social networking activity for 8-11 year olds is 28%, rising to 75% for 12-15 year olds. The source of this data is here.


Not only do these young consumers spend more and more time online, but also they tend to do so unsupervised by their parents (who, sometimes, don’t even understand the technology or the applications used). This offers marketers a new way to reach this key segment, not just to promote their products but also to conduct market research. So, this year, instead of monitoring the ad breaks on TV to find out what my kids will be asking for Christmas, I had better check their laptops.


Have you come across examples of companies marketing to young consumers (children and teenagers) through websites, social media and other online environments?

3 thoughts on “Young consumers have (pestering) power, money and networks

  1. Seeing the example of Mr Potato Head reminded me of how Pixar created Lots-o’-Hugging Bear for Toy Story 3 in 2010 – including a fake TV commercial from 1983. The spooky thing was that adults said they remembered having one of these toys. The TV commercial was a work of art: all the cheesy form of the 1980s plus the grainy pictures you get from VCR recordings.


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