Pester Power and Beyond: The Influence of Kids

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on November 21, 2013

In the current world, kids have a say in many decisions that adults make. These decisions can be by the direct involvement of kids or due to the fear that kids may be affected by a particular brand or product choice of the parent. Gone are the days when only the parent a say in the choices for the kid; children in the new generation have a say in the choice of product for themselves and their parents as well.

Considering the scenario where the kids have a direct say in the choices of parents; it is clear that pester power always had a say and its power had been on the rise in the past decade. The trend is however shifting to a situation where the kids know much more than what the parents can about brand and product choices. Kids have become tech savvy and the television and internet have empowered kids.

Pester power is the power kids possess to make a parent buy a particular product. Over the decade numerous studies have been conducted and it is seen that pester power is a very dominant phenomena kids tend to use on their parents. Numerous advertisements have considered pester power in the form of kids and even adults (consider Alpenliebe’s ad series).

Considering the advertisements that make kids “pester” parents into making decisions, the influence it has on kids maybe subliminal or direct. The typical advertisements like the ones for Alpenliebe give kids an idea that they can actually pester their parents into buying a particular product. There are also several advertisements that have a lingering effect in the minds of kids and they pester their parents into buying a particular product.

The most famous example one can think of for a product that pestered parents to no limit is BigFun which was a bubble gum that was quite famous in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The gum was a rage among kids though it was not one that could compete with BigBabol or Boomer for taste or with CenterFresh for its sheer class. BigFun even managed to steal the thunder from CentreFresh which was then dubbed as the official chewing gum of the Indian cricket team by tapping into the fame of the same entity (cricket). BigFun was sold at a 50% higher than the other gums but children would pester their parents to buy it because it gave them “free” cricket cards.

Another example is that of Popy Umbrellas in Kerala. The brand created an entity named Popy-a young boy in red pants as its brand element. This led to every kid wanting to buy Popy’s umbrellas. The same phenomenon was tapped by Scooby Day bags in the state. Every kid in the state craved to have a Scooby Day bag. Even with a hefty price tag, the parents were forced to buy the brand. The streets are littered with examples of marketers trying to exploit pester power with ice-cream vendors and balloon vendors proving to be classic examples.

Besides, pester power there is also a genuine influence of kids in the brand choices of adults. The influence of kids on their parents when it comes to even durable goods like cars is clear from the numerous car advertisements that feature kids; the latest one being from Renault Scala. Advertisers and marketers have understood the power kids have when it comes to influencing their parents’ behaviour.

Earlier ads featured kids only for products that directly influenced kids- chocolates, stationery, malt beverages and school stuff, but now almost every product from computers to cars feature kids. Their presence in advertisements is not just to add a cute element in them, but is testimony to the fact that kids play a major role in the choice of adults.

A decade ago, it was unimaginable to see advertisements other than for products like chocolates, confectionery and malt drinks in specific television channels targeted at kids but now the scenario has changed. Today, these channels feature ads from almost all segments: personal care, cars, electronics, clothing and of course the food and beverage industry. The say kids have in purchase decisions is mind boggling. The super markets are full of examples of kids helping their dads choose the best perfumes, the most appropriate mouth wash and even the monthly grocery. Studies have also thrown up interesting information that in over 75% of the families, kids play a very big role in deciding on where to head to for the holidays.

Boys and girls have varying roles to play in influencing selection decision in parents. Boys are more interested in and have a say in the choice of electronic goods, movies and cars while the girls have a say in numerous products ranging from cereals to personal care to the tourist destination. It is quite interesting to watch this shift in “power” from the age when parents were in a better situation to gauge and decide what was best for their kids to a scenario where the kids decide on what is the best for them as well as their parents. The parachute advanced hair oil advertisement featuring a teen girl teaching her mom how to say “you are welcome” to her husband’s boss best drives home this fact.

Though there are plenty of examples to vouch for the fact that kids have a huge say in the decisions made by parents, the fact that parents know best when it comes to what is good for their kids is something that would never go away. When it comes to products like food, beverages and personal care, the parents may consider the opinion of kids but they take the final decision of they feel that something might be harmful for their kids. The most striking example for the fact that parents like to have control over the purchase of food is with respect to dairy products. Parents are doubly careful when buying dairy products for their kids. They want to make sure that only the most trusted brands would be bought. This is one of the major reasons why brands like Aavin and Amul thrive even with a limited arsenal of goods and even though many brands are coming up with superior products. When it comes to food products for kids, new entrants find it very difficult to find a foothold until they are from a trusted company. The reason is the very same; the parents do not want to take risk with their kids.

Mortein rat kill was a brand that managed to sell in huge numbers even though the consumers knew that it wasn’t something that was really effective in killing rats. But, the fact that their advertisements features scenes where the brand highlighted the fact that rats may be nibbling on containers and food stuff you feed to your kids, the people went for the brand. Many GoodKnight advertisements feature kids not just to “cuten” them but to subliminally drive home the fact that it is safe for kids too. Lifebuoy is another brand that is trying to leverage on the health of kids aspect with their hand wash advertisements. The idea is to drive in fear into the minds of the parents and make them purchase the product. This would have been a difficult proposition if kids were not put as an integral element of these advertisements.

Similarly, the kids’ element is exploited by many brands when it comes to children’s products. The trend was started in the 1990’s with ParleG “G means Genius” advertisements where the kids who ate ParleG became geniuses. Over the years numerous brands like Horlicks, Britannia Tiger, Amul Cheese and Complan have used it to their advantage. These brands have not used pester power, wisdom of kids or fear to drive brand image but plays on the psyche of parents. Every parent wants their kids to be the best in all fields and cognitive knowledge is the most important aspect for them. These advertisements strike the right chord on all these aspects. The way we buy stuff is changing drastically and kids play a very important role in our brand choices.

Hence, the lesson for marketers and advertisers is that it is inevitable to ignore the kids’ angle in most products. One has to thread the path carefully and ensure that all the loose edges are tied all the while trying to leverage on the potential kids possess both intentionally as well as subliminally to promote one’s brand.

The article has been authored by Eldho K Poulose, LIBA Chennai

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