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The Kids Are Alright and in Charge, and What It Means for Marketers

Campaign US

October 30, 2017

By Ruth Bernstein

When it comes to selling to families, we’ve seen marketers respond to shifting gender roles (see Jif Peanut Butter’s “Choosy Moms and Dads Choose Jif” since 2012) and incorporate today’s modern family makeups (see Campbell soup’s #realreallife commercials featuring two real dads). We see moms in Home Depot DIY commercials and dads washing princess costumes with Tide. But most marketers are overlooking an important decision maker in today’s household—the kids.

The rise of the kid
Today’s family unit, regardless of whether the parents are working, homeschooling, gay, straight or single, has a new structure. It’s not top down—mom and dad imparting their wisdom from on high—it’s suddenly bottom up. Mom and dad are equal decision-makers, and their Gen Z tech-savvy kids are weighing in with authority too. These entrepreneurial, always-connected kids aren’t just comfortable expressing their voices, they’re comfortable schooling their parents.

Today’s kids are often the ones bringing information into the home and telling their parents about it. They have a credibility that previous generations didn’t enjoy. Kids have access to a wealth of information that empowers them as key decision-makers. Whether they’re using Waze to navigate the family road-trip and Yelp to scope out the perfect place for lunch, or weighing in on where the next family trip should be, thanks to Instagram and Kayak, parents might be setting the parameters but kids are the ones increasingly navigating the family towards a decision.

According to a study by Nickelodeon, 71 percent of parents say they ask their kids for input on purchasing decisions. Nearly all kids are asked for their opinion when the item is for the child, but more than two-thirds of parents consult their kids on family purchases as well.

As responsibilities become shared more equally between working parents, and the decision-making became decentralized away from either mom or dad, kids have seen their power increase in turn. That’s not to say that the kids are suddenly in charge. But it does mean that understanding the power Gen Z kids hold over their parents—and the family’s bank account—is critical for marketers trying to sway family decision makers.

A technology-shaped generation
But the story goes beyond the parents—today’s kids are markedly different than the generations that came before them. While many look to millennials as the first “digital natives,” Gen Z was born into a world that had much more powerful technology integrated into every conceivable aspect of their lives than any generation before them. The ways they get their information, how they see the world and how they decide what products they want, are entirely driven by technology in a way that surpasses even what millennials experienced at a young age.

Solving problems at any age
Kids may have always been “cooler” than their parents, but today’s young people have a mindset geared towards problem solving that is much more valuable to their parents than simply knowing the latest in music and fashion trends.

They’ve grown up in a world that’s promised them that no matter what happens, there is a solution in technology. Because of this, they believe that there’s always a new, better way to accomplish whatever problems may arise—and they’ve used that power to train their parents to trust them in household decision-making.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Knowledge is power. Understanding that you need to include the family’s app-savvy 13-year-old while simultaneously targeting her parents makes things that much more complicated for marketers already struggling to navigate a complex media environment, but it’s a whole lot better than not knowing.