Marketing to Generation Alpha, the Newest and Youngest Cohort

By Josch Chodakowsky

The new kids on the block are generation alpha, kids born after 2010 to predominantly millennial parents. Following their gen Z predecessor's footsteps, they are already heavily immersed within the digital world and were born with screens all around them.

Their technological maturity aside, however, they are still children, and the ethical issues around marketing to children continue to present a conundrum. Indeed, one of the top "kidfluencers," today, Ryan's World, is a 10-year-old boy who unboxes toys on his YouTube channel.

While he's "kidfluenced" about $250 million in retail sales, his and other channels like his have been the subject of FTC scrutiny (and rightfully so) as to how deceitfully they may be blurring the line between entertainment and outright sales pitching.

Gen alpha's omnipresence around screens keeps marketing to them nearly inevitable, but what marketers can do is ensure that they approach this audience in ways that – like so many other cohorts, regardless of age – are authentic, personal, and ethical. Especially since this generation is already aware of how critical diversity, equality, and inclusion are in the world.

Resources

The resources here discuss the characteristics of this young but influential generation, and how to approach them in transparent and ethical ways.

  • Courier Talks: Understanding Gen Alpha. MailChimp, December 2021.

    By the end of 2024, there will be more than 2 billion people around the world classified as Generation Alpha. Many already have access to their own technology that they use not only for entertainment, but for education and to communicate with other young people. They are also starting to interact with social media.

    As such, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have all experimented with launching controlled, child-safe versions. Children are using technology independently from their parents, shifting their relationships with brands and advertising. They have some ability to make purchasing decisions; nearly half of the kids between the ages of 6 and 16 surveyed by agency Wunderman Thompson had access to an Amazon Prime account.

    Still, parents hold the purse strings. Brands looking to reach Gen Alpha and their families must think about how this generation will evolve and change some industries, as well as the importance of ethical and transparent communication. Here, MailChimp features six experts in young consumers – and the brands trying to market to them – to learn more.
  • Marketing to Kids Through Interactive & Experiential Marketing: World Children's Day Special. Toolbox Marketing, December 2021.
    Marketing to kids is tricky because young minds are impressionable, and you must ensure you are sending the right message. Moreover, children's health and safety are paramount while marketing children's products, hence it is essential to get parents' approval when you plan a marketing campaign for kids.

    Many millennials are parents or primary caregivers of children now, who have grown up in an era of exploration (search engines), connectedness (social networking), and digitization. So, when it comes to making decisions for their kids, they are pretty hands-on parents and more aware (and sometimes less trusting). And today's kids are widely exposed to the use of technologies like voice search, hyper-personalized experiences, artificial intelligence, and social media as a way of life. This exposure makes them expect more from their day-to-day experiences.

    This generation tends to have a strong influence over their parents' buying decisions – the millennial caregivers who are more willing to spend on their children. How do you engage kids and caregivers alike? While marketing to kids, you need to be ethical and empowering to win the loyalty of children and the trust of caregivers. Interactive and experiential marketing can help engage the kids better and let caregivers experience your product for themselves, making it a win-win for everyone. This looks at how interactive and experiential marketing of children's products can be effective and ethical.

  • How Advertisers Should Adapt To Reach Generation Alpha. Forbes, January 2022.
    When you look at the facts, it's easy to dispel sweeping generalizations about certain generations. Baby boomers can be tech-savvy: their tech adoption rates have grown in relatively short periods of time. Pew Research found that 68 percent of baby boomers owned smartphones in 2019 compared to just 25 percent in 2011.

    And, while research suggests that it's fair to say millennials prefer experiences over material products, that doesn't mean that Burger King should throw a Whopper-themed music festival and call it a day. It means that brands should create experiences that feel authentic to millennials — not create experiences that feel like a byproduct of corporate advertising.

    When you're looking for ways to reach Generation Alpha, smart and tediously researched insights, not assumptions, are the only things that marketers should rely on for an honest take. Otherwise, their advertising efforts may be the next victims of meme culture. Forbes Communications Council Member Angela Davis offers the following advice:
    • Work to form authentic connections through digital media
    • Create actionable initiatives with empathetic positioning
    • Change the narrative of consumer-centric holidays
    • Don't pretend like you understand them
    • Use generalizations to prove a point
  • Who Is Gen Alpha? Edited, January 2022.
    Retailers should be all too familiar with gen Z - how trends translate globally, what CARLY stands for (Can't Afford Real Life), and the aesthetics emerging from TikTok into the mainstream. Now, get ready to meet their younger siblings, gen alpha, the tech-literate kids projected to be history's largest generation in the next three years. Here, Edited profiles the tech-obsessed cohort set to add a new dimension to the retail sector. Briefly:
    • Date of birth: 2010 - present day
    • Also known as Generation Glass, Upagers, Multi-Modals
    • Emergency contacts: Gen Y parents
    • Gaming and social media: Fortnite, Roblox, Among Us, Ryan's World, Stormi Jenner, Gang Beasts, YouTube, the Metaverse
    • Technology and wearables: Apple Watch, iPhone/iPad, AI, VR, voice-recognition, Oculus Rift
    • Shopping and brands: High quality, sustainable, health-conscious, via social media, experiential retail.
  • Generation Alpha Steps Up to the Plate. Robin Report, November 2021.
    Members of generation alpha have been dubbed "mini-millennials" because of the similarities in purchasing behavior between this demographic and their millennial parents (not unlike the similarities between gen Z and their Boomer grandparents).

    As the most educated generation, generation alpha are already highly opinionated and activists, with a fully developed position on most current issues. And generation alpha wants real time in-app personalization from online retailers on social media. Retailers that drag their feet on providing this run the risk of failing to connect with this influential demographic during their formative years, missing out on positive, lifelong brand sentiment and loyalty.

    But how does this translate into their purchasing behavior? The Robin Report looks at how people, the environment, and access to social media has shaped generation alpha, and what retailers can do to appeal to them.

Josch Chodakowsky is a senior manager of research and innovation at ANA.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Futures Pulse are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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