One or two decades ago, children were not really spoken of as spenders or customers, but as future consumers. Although they bought sweets, doughnuts and occasional soft drinks, brand owners and marketers at that period still did not recognise them as customers per ce. The youngest population segment that was of interest or concern to brand owners and marketers was the teens.
But today, under-13s are viewed as an expanding viable market by many manufacturers and marketers. With the budget of child-focused events, advertising and PR running into billions of dollars globally, the kid consumer segment is really a moving force in the marketing space today.
Potentially, children constitute one of the most lucrative markets for many businesses. Entire industries – such as producers of candy, gum, soft drinks, toys, comic books, music and video games – treat children as a current market. At the retail level, such outlets as video game parlours, movie houses and convenience stores also treat children as a ready market. Children are a future market for many other goods and services. Manufacturers and retailers respond to them as future consumers to be cultivated now.
Very few seasons reflect the power of Kid consumers more than the Christmas/ New Year marketing window. A season generally accepted as the biggest marketing window globally.
Apart from ensuring that the citizens, especially in areas like Europe and America still ravaged by Coronavirus, remain COVID-19 compliant, the techniques used by brands for their sales and promo offers at Christmas and the New Year period may not differ from the ones used in the last few years. One fact always stands out this period, the season sure has an aura that makes merchandising propitious. It is common knowledge that the period is often characterised by shopping spree and a rise in the volume of sales and promo offers/retail bonanza by brands.
In most families, the kids are in charge of Christmas- they spearhead where the family visits, events to grace with their presence, concert to attend etc. They make invaluable inputs. Parents and other adults just “hide in” to have fun. From my observations, the story in 2020 is not radically different today, besides following the rules that will help prevent COVID 19.
The importance of this period for business cannot be overemphasised as brands, merchandisers and event planners rely on consumer spending, championed by kids during the Christmas season, to boost their balance sheets.
Today’s typical young consumers have several sources of funds. They can spend their money on objects of their choice and are encouraged by their parents to become economically responsible as soon as possible. Most parents regard the notion of their children as consumers as a natural role to be assumed.
But, should children, really be referred to as a market? Renowned marketing scholar, Phil Cutler had listed the following four requirements that must be met for a group to be considered a market: the people or group must have a definable need for the product; individuals in the group must have the authority to buy the specific product; the people in the group must have the ability to purchase the products and the people in the aggregate must be willing to use their buying power.
Emmanuel Young, a market research Consultant with Research Links ltd. feels looking closely at each of these requirements; children appear to constitute a bona fide market. Explaining further Young said, “It is true that one might question the first requirement, need for the product, in terms of sweets, bubble gum or candy. It is also true that a child doesn’t need these products to sustain life, however, needs are not only for survival but also for social reason or just fun or leisure”.
There are no indications that parents of the present age are going to do anything to reduce the consumption efforts of their children. In fact, parents in general seem more determined than ever to make their children independent consumers at a very early age. Kids now are starting school at a very early age, and they are marching toward adulthood at a much brisker pace now than they used to, and want more “mature” things to go with this accelerated growth quicker than before.
The America-styled Black Friday shopping model is increasingly becoming very popular in Nigeria. The Black Friday is the Friday following the Thanksgiving Day that comes up on the fourth Thursday of November in the US. It marks the beginning of the long Christmas/new year Shopping Season.
In this year’s black Friday campaign in Nigeria, kid consumers were strongly targeted by phone merchants, clothing lines, personal accessories retailers. Sales promo, Street storming, product testing were common sights in all business districts of Lagos. Indeed a curious observer had to ask, ” are we sure Nigeria is really under economic recession?”
It seems brands, event handlers and business people have come to the full realization that children constitute a very strong and lucrative market because the youngsters are actually three markets in one: They are a well-researched market that spends over 7 billion dollars in America a year of their own money on their own desires. I believe if the Nigerian statistics are available, the percentage will be equally high. In this sense children are viewed as having needs, having money to spend on items that satisfy their needs, and having a willingness to spend money. As stated earlier, one must see children as a ready market.
Secondly, children are a future market for most goods and services. Manufacturers and retailers respond to them as future consumers to be cultivated now. Thus, department stores have special promotions for children to build store awareness for the day when they begin to buy their own clothes.
Thirdly kids also constitute a market of influencers that create billions of dollars of purchases via their parents. Probably best known of these marketers are cereal firms that intensively advertise to children on Saturday morning television, directly or indirectly to encourage the children to persuade their parents to buy certain brands of cereal.
Most parents pamper their children from day one by giving to them an unending range of things. As soon as they develop some money awareness, probably around age five or six, many parents will begin to give their kids money in a desire to please them more. They feel the kids can independently now obtain some of the things the parents have been giving them previously. For instance, in Nigeria, besides the food pack kids take to school, it is not uncommon for parents of all social classes to drop a specific amount with their kids, for them to buy snacks or any other thing they might choose during break time. With such early exposure to daily cash, extra economic relevance will come early and handy. Many kids below 15, with this, can save up and make personal plans for the Xmas season.
Many brands in Nigeria equally explore avenues like Xmas time to give out samples of their product or service for free. It is interesting to observe also that Christmas/New Year special offers, sales and promos thrive not just on the season’s spending passion or consumers’ tendency to save towards Christmas, but also on the payment of 13th month salary and other emoluments by some employers which enhance the purchasing powers of consumers as brands, event planners and marketers continue to smile all the way to the bank.
However, despite all these, the fact of the matter is that a lot more can still be done to improve the marketers – child consumer connection. A strong relationship is a good thing for the market. It means sales and profits now, and even greater sales and profits in the future. It is a good thing for children – it provides enormous input to their consumer socialization process as well as current satisfaction from products and their purchase of them.
Commenting on this Clement Odum, an experienced entertainment writer said, “No serious consumer brand would normally choose to ignore a period of the year like this, so the opportunity is there. Virtually all children-oriented brands know they need to make impact in the life of kids, and generally be part of their lives as they grow – because when a child grows loving a particular brand, the child will not only become a brand believer, but a sold-out loyalist to the brand as well, for most years of his or her life.”