Parents are a prime marketing demographic target because of the emphasis that today’s marketers place on brand loyalty. Parents are discerning consumers. We shop carefully with one eye focused squarely on value and the other on quality. We’re not just prudent customers, though; we’re also active spenders. We control purchases for ourselves, our spouses, our children, and for our own aging parents. Brands need new customers; they need people who are loyal to that brand. By targeting parents, advertisers open the door for the rest of the family, too.
One of the most compelling strategies that marketing companies use to reach parents is playing up the emotions, especially guilt – how strong the pressure can be to buy the newest fad product. By tapping into parents’ insecurities or feelings of inadequacy, marketers have an easy opening when pushing a product that promises to bring happiness to a child’s life. Parents are targeted with that mindset: Your kids deserve that coveted object. They deserve more. Another marketing strategy to guide the emotions of parents is to have a company seen as a very upright and worthy business. Most moms are more likely to buy a product from a company that they see to be socially responsible or have a cause. Parents want to support businesses that have the same values that they do.
Depending on the product or service, marketers may enlist multiple strategies to attract parents’ attention using methods such as surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, and SEO rankings. Advertisers try to determine the psychology behind what will make a parent buy a particular product or service or click on a particular link.
Advertisers who are paying close attention follow parenting or mom blogs to uncover what messages will resonate the most with parents. In general, families, especially moms, are one of the largest consumer segments in American society, buying more food, more clothes, and more products overall once children come along. The Marketing to Moms Coalition recently reported that mothers are worth more than $2 trillion to U.S. brands. That’s a lucrative target audience.
Today’s advertisers are able to target special-interest parenting groups and their buying power through blogs written by moms, for moms. One of the things that’s important for advertisers to understand is the differences among parenting groups. For example, Baby Boomers typically have kids in college or young grandchildren, and are experiencing their own unique parenthood needs. Generation X parents often gravitate toward products that offer straightforward solutions to problems, while Millennials, currently the very youngest parents, respond to more emotional advertising and products that enhance their well-being.
Also, advertisers understand as more people get smartphones, we’re basically all carrying mini computers around in our pocketbooks. And parents are quickly jumping on the smartphone trend. It allows parents to shop 24-7, to find a local store quickly, and to use money-saving coupons right from their phones.
Educate your kids about advertising and how marketers target young people. Help your kids understand that the main goal of advertising is to make them buy things—often things they don’t need, and didn’t even know they wanted until they’ve seen the ad. Parents can explain that advertising is big business, one of the largest businesses in the world. Discuss what advertisers are not allowed to do when producing ads for kids. Examine commercials and print ads to see if they follow the rules.
Challenge your children’s definition of “cool”. Ask your children, primarily your teens, the following questions:
- Do you ever feel bad about yourself for not owning something?
- Have you ever felt that people might like you more if you owned a certain item?
- Has an ad made you feel that you would like yourself more, or that others would like you more, if you owned the product the ad is selling?
- Do you ever worry about your looks or want to change your appearance? Have you ever felt that people would like you more if your face, body, skin or hair looked different?
Encourage non-commercial values in your kids. Try to spend more time with your kids, not more money on them. What kids really want and need is time with their parents, not more consumer goods. Explain that there are children, even in your own community, who don’t have many toys. Donate your old toys to a local women’s shelter, or send them to an aid agency so they can be shipped to refugee camps in developing countries. Donate money, goods or time to environmental causes that matter to you and your family. Get involved in local service areas that will cause your kids and yourself to think about those who don’t have all the advantages that many families do.
Finally, remember that you, as parents, have the ability to consider your own spending habits to showcase to your children the example of what you’d like to see them achieve when it comes to managing money in the marketing world. Care about your children. And care about the world. Your dollars are only going to get a marketer’s attention for a fleeting moment. And their product or service won’t seem so important if you keep yourself in check. Of course, we know you have to spend some of your money, but plan to spend it on what really counts for your particular family needs and not just another advertiser’s commercial of the moment.