How Brands Are Passed Down (And Up) Between Generations

Teens might prefer to hit their favorite stores with friends, but they’re not afraid to buy the same brands as their parents. In fact, teens think it’s cool to share a passion for a brand with mom or dad. We reached out to roughly a dozen teens, and they told us how their families influence each other’s shopping habits. Here’s a look at how all those brand recommendations take place:

Parents introduce established brands to teens. Buying from the most well-known brands—everything from Chanel to Gap to Clinique—passes down from parents to children. “My mom introduced me to Nordstrom,” says Amy, 19. “She loves the customer service there and thought it had a lot of great options for me.” Another teen, Sammie, 15, told us shopping at the Gap is a family affair: “My mom first introduced me to Gap and now the whole family shops there. My older sister just went to Gap looking for her first job interview outfit. My dad loves the pants.”



Teens keep parents in the loop on new brands. This inter-generational shopping influence is a two-way street. Teens, who are out in the world trying new things, expose their parents to newer brands, such as Trader Joe’s, Rue21, Adidas and Urban Outfitters. “We love it!” Sammie, 15, told us about Trader Joe’s. “My sister and I discovered it first and brought our parents into the store.” Sammie loves the prepared foods; her sister likes the yummy baked goods, and dad is a fan of the beer. 

Sharing brands with parents creates special memories. Several teens described loving the same brand as a parent as a bonding experience. Sofia, 15, told us drinking Silk Soymilk was special because “only my dad and I drink soymilk at home.” Being introduced to a brand by mom or dad might also tie into a big moment in life. “My mom took me to Victoria’s Secret to try their bras when I got to an appropriate age to wear and buy things from there,” says Patrice, 19, who still names it as a favorite brand. Passing down cosmetics brands is another right of passage and shared experience for mothers and daughters. Sofia Marie, 19, told us she uses Pond’s moisturizer and cold cream because her mom told her it was the best. “I've been using it my whole life and never really looked at alternatives because I trust my mom on cosmetics.” 

But teens don’t want to share everything. Some youthful brands, such as Victoria’s Secret PINK, aren’t for adults and teens aren’t shy about voicing those boundaries. “My mother saw my PINK boy shorts, thought they were cute and now she is shopping at PINK with me!” says Sofia, 15. “I don’t particularly like it because PINK is for teens, not for a 48 year old!” Patrice, 19, told us she loves young fashion retailers like Forever 21 and Rue21 but wouldn’t rush out and introduce those clothes to her mom. “They aren’t necessarily appropriate,” she says, noting that she might allow her mom to buy some—but not all—the clothes from those stores. 

The Takeaway for Brands

  • Focus on product selection. To appeal across generations, focus on classic, ageless style (like Chanel) or offer a selection that hits a variety of age points, either with basics like the Gap or the sub-brand approach taken by Victoria’s Secret. 

  • Show authentic moments between teens and parents. Many ads (we’re looking at you, cell phone family plans) come across as cheesy instead of believable. Show real bonding experiences between families to make multi-generational connections.

  • Find creative ways to encourage parent-child referrals. Try two-part coupons with messaging to pass along the discount to mom and dad. Or hold creative mother-daughter events with incentives for shopping together. 

Is your brand being passed down—or up—between generations? What are you doing to encourage families to share the love for your brand?

2 comments about "How Brands Are Passed Down (And Up) Between Generations".
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  1. Davida Tretout from Go2Chic, April 5, 2013 at 10:24 p.m.

    What a timeless & tested take-away re: brands. Look at legacy brands such as Levi's, Chuck Taylor's, & Cadillac for example. By staying classic, sub & cross branding they have woven a multi-demo brand experience that displays core branding. Good stories... Thanks for the share!

  2. Maruchi Santana from Parham Santana, April 9, 2013 at 8:12 a.m.

    I agree Davida, there are many legacy brands that could take advantage of their awareness to target both their loyal consumers and their kids.
    One of the biggest take always talking to teens was how brands unite them with their mom or dad, and how many memories they have from that experience.

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