Globally, about 26 percent of the world is under 15 years of age. As statistics confirm, the country with the highest percentage of its population 18-years-old or younger is Nigera, with a full 56.9% of its population being made up of such youth. Outside Africa, India is one such country with one of the highest population of children. India with 1.21 billion people constitutes as the second most populous country in the world, while children represents 39% of total population of the country. That’s a huge number to understand and analyze. With more than 500 million children under the age of eighteen years, it won’t be incorrect to say that India is the youngest country in the world where a significant population is very young. This makes the discussion about children and their influence on businesses very fruitful.
Children constitute a major consumer market, with direct purchasing power for snacks and sweets, and indirect purchase influence with indirect power for buying expensive products like TV, cars, etc. With their power to influence purchase decisions, they have been playing important role in the family buying process. Children are getting stronger and it’s high time, marketers should take them seriously as influencers and consumers. Researches shows that today children have the influencing power for almost all product categories. Whether the product is for child’s own use like toys, snacks, clothes, etc or the product for family use like family vacation or the product for household like rice, food, tea / coffee, child is having very strong influencing power.
It is important for the marketers to understand the children’s context. What are things that make sense to them? Using different attributes a ‘context map’ could be drawn to create a broad picture of children’s environment.
Context is made up of more than the environment
Source: Advertising & Marketing to Children, Jan-Mar 2004
By plotting and maintaining a context map, it is possible to track the emergence and decline of trends, products and celebrities, and thereby to minimize the likelihood of failure. The map can be adapted with time to reflect new crazes, emergent technology and more popular activities.
The focus and direction of marketing to children depends upon the level of interest and influence exhibited by children for a particular brand/category. The Preference-Pester-Purchase (PPP) planning framework focuses on three zones of influence (Sharma and Dasgupta, 2009). Based on the interest level and influence level of children for different products, three zones of influence can be identified: preference zone, pester zone and purchase zone.
PPP Planning Framework – focus of marketing strategies directed at children
Source: Young Consumers, Vol.10, No.3, 2009
Children’s role also varies across the different buying process stages. Studies have shown that children influence the most in the initial stages of problem recognition and the influence declines in the choice stage. Children are to a greater degree initiators rather than influencers in their family’s purchase decisions, independent of the sub-decision stage like where to buy, when to buy and how much to buy. Other than the buying stages, the influence also varies by demographic factors; as the child grows, his/her influence in the buying process also increases. Similarly age, gender, social class, number of siblings and family income also impact the children’s influence on the family buying process. Children not only, play a very important role in making decisions about the products they use but also in decisions concerning the entire family. Media exposure is also very important element in this area. Children’s influence has been largely moderated by the role of media. Children regard TV commercials as an important information source for new products. Young children are easy to target because they are unable to understand the tactics and have positive attitude towards advertising. During adolescence, they begin to understand and recognize the deception in ads.
Marketers who target children should consider the ethical implications of their marketing practices. Children do not have the analytical abilities and judgment of adults; they should be treated with special care. Children are vulnerable because they may be unable to evaluate the accuracy of information they receive; they are unable to understand the difference between marketing and entertainment and lastly they are unable to understand the dangers of sharing personal information especially on internet.
When we talk about the ethics and responsibility, parents comes first. They have the greatest responsibility in ensuring their children are protected from unethical marketing practices. They should monitor the children’s media exposure and should teach their children how to make judgments about the communication they receive. Marketers and advertisers have a dual responsibility. They have to market the product in appropriate contexts for kids. They need to encourage play and develop mental skills and provide entertainment to children. The language and content for communication should be appropriate for children and their age. While marketing through internet, marketers should be more careful because of the open access of the Internet and children’s ability to make decisions without the assistance of parents.