Children might not have a lot or any money to spend but that does not prevent them from being consumers.
Children might not have a lot or any money to spend but that does not prevent them from being consumers. They consume media images, are attracted to products in stores, and are constantly taste-testing many new products and experiences. As consumers, they form opinions just like everyone else. From these opinions, they become influencers, especially on their parents, other family members and their peers.
For instance, Mintel’s latest research reveals that 73% of consumers in China aged 20-49 years with children aged 4-12 years, try to guide what their child is allowed to buy, while 24% said they usually let them choose what they want to buy. With an estimated 150 million Chinese children aged 5-12 years in 2017, that 24% represents a huge population of active consumers. As per our report, most parents give their children pocket money, with some form of parental control, but two in five let their kids buy whatever they want with it. Only a handful of Chinese parents said they never give in to demands for a cheap treat from their children while most do, to some extent or other.
If China is any guide to the rest of the region, then kids’ consumer choices have a significant impact on Asian consumer spending. Brands therefore have, in children, a big potential market. Yet, they also have a big responsibility in how they market to children, and help guide them make better choices — to educate them in how to shop well.
In India, board game company Hasbro launched an electronic version of its game Monopoly in 2017, which replaces the old Monopoly notes with four colour-coded debit cards. As recently as April, 2018, India’s food regulator proposed a ban on all forms of advertising related to foods with high fat, sugar and salt aimed at children. But a number of snack food and drink companies in the country have already voluntarily restricted their ads aimed at children.
Brands can also engage with these young consumers in tackling social issues affecting children. Leading Indonesian gummy confectionary maker Yupi ran a campaign to help combat bullying at school. Hindustan Unilever did its bit for the Clean India Mission through its Hands, Mouth, Bum campaign featuring mostly children teaching adults the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. This was also intended to impart good habits right from a young age.
However, brands can also do damage if they get their marketing to children wrong. India’s leading dairy brand Amul came under fire back in 2015 for an ad campaign described as ‘sexist’ and ‘regressive’. It featured a little girl decorating a room with dolls in preparation for the arrival of a newborn baby: only for the father to replace the dolls with superhero toys, although he did start to teach her cricket so she could play with her new sibling.
With more children having access to the internet, brands have even more opportunity to engage with these pint-size consumers. But they also have to reason, therefore, to think carefully about the message they send to children. With this market potential comes a responsibility to help children and their parents make a better choice, for their health, development and education. If they get it right, they can make a friend for life.
Matthew Crabbe is regional trends director, Asia-Pacific, Mintel