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Marketing to Children 4-11 Market Assessment
Key Note Publications Ltd, January 2001
Although the UK population in general is ageing, there has been a small increase over the last decades in numbers of under 16 year-olds - an increase that is entirely attributable to a growth in numbers of 5-14 year-olds.
There have been a number of far-reaching changes to family structure over the past 30 years, many of which have had strong effects on children's markets. These include the continuing trend for women to delay giving birth, leading to older parents who tend to be more financially secure, more informed about issues such as healthy eating, and more education-conscious. In addition, family sizes have been falling over the past 20 years - although this clearly has the effect of decreasing numbers within the total child population, it does mean that children within these smaller families tend to have more spent on them individually.
Although the divorce rate has stablised, a large proportion of children are still affected by divorce, leading in some cases to increased spending on children - for example, by non-resident parents indulging their offspring on access visits, and through increased opportunities for children to exert 'pester power' by playing off one parent against the other.
A high proportion of children in the 5-10 age group have mothers who are in employment - the effect of this, at least in two-parent families, can be to increase the amount of disposable income available to spend on children. It can also increase the 'guilt factor', with some parents tending to buy things for their children to make up for spending less time with them.
Key Note original research showed that just under four in ten of all adults (and nearly seven in ten of all parents with children under 16) make purchases for children in the 4-11 age group.
There is much concern - especially among parents - about the fact that children feel pressure to have the 'right' designer labels in order to fit in with their school friends. Although a high proportion also complain that children are often 'spoilt' by parents who give in to 'pester power', the same proportion agree that they really enjoy buying things for children in this age group. There is also a high level of agreement that it is more fun to buy things today for children than it was in the past.
A significant minority of purchasers for children agree that children today are under too much pressure to do well at school (this is especially true of those living in the South). In spite of - or perhaps because of - this, around half say they would spend more on things for children if they felt they had an educational purpose.
The issue of marketing and advertising to children is a controversial one, with commercial interests often clashing with the views of parents and pressure groups. Sweden's presidency of the European Union (EU) during 2001 has also provoked action and comment on the subject. In general, Key Note's research showed that those with negative views about advertising to children tend to outnumber those with positive or neutral views - although the findings suggest that opposition to advertising in children's television breaks does not necessarily mean opposition to all advertising to children.
A number of companies now run high-profile schemes using brand sponsorship to raise money for UK schools, although this form of marketing has also attracted controversy. The marketplace for products aimed at children is becoming increasingly complicated, with cross-over marketing, brand extensions and character licensing all playing a part. According to Key Note original research, nearly six in ten of all adult purchasers of items for 4-11 year olds acknowledge the importance of character merchandising to children in this age group.
The market for traditional toys and games has been strongly influenced by the 'children getting older younger' phenomenon. Toys for older children are often media-led, with character merchandising based on television programmes an important force within the market a more recent development has been the introduction of technology to the traditional toy market. An opposing trend has been the return to popularity of traditional games and toys such as scooters.
Although the typical player and purchaser of electronic games is more likely to be in the 18-25 than the 4-11 age group, these games are undoubtedly also popular with younger children - especially young boys - and a high proportion of children have games machines at home.
Snacks and confectionery are frequent pocket money purchases among children in this age group. Recent developments have included the launch of a number of chocolate novelty items, with toys and other gifts included in items of confectionery, and the development of children's websites by many leading children's snack and confectionery brands.
A recent government report has raised concerns about children's diets, and particularly their consumption of snack foods, and a number of pressure groups have produced findings indicating that many products specifically aimed at children have unacceptable levels of fat, sugar and salt. Partly in response to these concerns, there have been recent launches of ranges of ready-packaged 'healthy' foods aimed at children.
As the child population is forecast to fall for all age groups over the next 5 years, there will be a growing need for manufacturers and retailers to encourage more spending per individual child. It will be important, however, to ensure that products are not marketed in a way which suggests over-indulgence on children the emphasis should be on quality of products and, where appropriate, their educational aspects.
There is growing evidence that children are becoming an increasingly important influence on 'adult' purchase decisions within their households, a trend which manufacturers and advertisers will need to take into consideration over the next few years.
Within specific children's sectors, the continuing emphasis on cross-over marketing and brand extensions means that there are fewer boundaries between individual product areas, with companies in different sectors, such as toys, computer games and confectionery working together as well as competing with each other.