Kids Sway One In Three Parents To Buy Stuff (Duh)

Most parents would give anything to get their kids to stop bugging them to buy stuff--be it Scooby Doo fruit snacks, Nike sneakers or a Volvo XC50, preferably in red.

Marketers are not shy about targeting kids for everything from automobiles to toothpaste. But just how deep is kid influence on adult purchases? According to new research by Experian Simmons, one of every three parents is significantly influenced by their kids when it comes to choosing brands.

The influence crosses multiple categories--from food, shoes, clothing, toys, autos, music, and cell phones to all manner of entertainment.

At 35.8 million strong, kids comprise about 12% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Packaged Facts estimates the buying power of kids ages 3 to 11 will grow to $21.4 billion in 2010, up from its present $18.3 billion. Often, marketers bypass parents and target kids directly, but it's worth knowing something about the parents who are swayed by their kids.

"The parents who are most easily influenced by children also tend to be highly receptive to advertising," said Max Kilger, chief behavioral scientist at Experian Simmons. These so called "child influenced shoppers" are:

  • Two times as likely to agree as the average U.S. adult that if they see a brand name product on a TV show, they are reassured it is a good product.

  • Twice as likely to agree as the average U.S. adult that if they see a brand name product on a TV show they are more likely to buy that product than a competitor's brand.

  • More than two times as likely to agree as the average U.S. adult that if they see a character in a movie use a brand-name product they have never tried before, they are likely to try it.

  • 50% more likely than the average U.S. adult to find TV advertising interesting.

  • 40% more likely than the average U.S. adult to read magazine ads out of curiosity

  • More than 60% more likely than the average U.S. adult to purchase a product from an advertising sponsor.

    Income level also comes into play, with kids in the lower end of the spectrum having a greater say in brand purchases than those whose families have higher incomes.

    Research by Packaged Facts has found that 40% of kids in families with household incomes below $30,000 buy things they have seen on TV, compared to 32% of kids in families with household income between $75,000 and $100,000, and 34% of kids whose parents bring in $100,000 or more.

    Kilger, of Experian Simmons, puts a kid's receptivity to advertising on an S-Curve.

    "They begin to develop a sense of program content versus marketing as time goes on," he says. "At the very bottom they are not paying much attention to advertising, but as they go up, they begin to pay attention to commercials. As they are growing they are watching commercials and learning more about culture, society and life. By the time they are teens, they've developed a distinction between program content and advertising, and they know that advertising has an agenda."

    Anyone who has ever lived with a kid or been in a store near one knows they call the shots with certain key categories, such as cereal, snacks and toys. But the product kids have the most say in is the humble tube of toothpaste.

    Experian Simmons found that a vast majority of kids ages 6 to 11 get to choose their toothpaste and shampoo brands (92% and 89% respectively).

    And 82% get to pick out their own adhesive bandages--that's the same percentage of kids who influence purchases of toys and games.

    When it comes to jeans, just over half of kids in this age group have a say in what brand they wear, while 66% choose their sneakers.

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