Have you ever wondered why children become super sly and devious as soon as they step into the supermarket’s candy department? And why are the colourful packaging and nice shapes always at children’s eye level? How do even the most well-behaved of children turn into tiny terrorising demons as soon as they see a McDonald’s?
The answer is ‘Pester Power’, a term situated within children’s and youth marketing. Children have always been an alluring marketing segment: there’s no such thing as planting your marketing seeds too early. Seeds that grow into loyal customers with a large lifetime value. Kids are the consumers of tomorrow, which makes them the market share of the future. Nevertheless, these children already have huge spending power despite their young age (thanks to their parents, of course). That’s what they call ‘Pester Power’ or ‘The Nag Factor’. It all boils down to this: children have the power to persuade their parents (kidfluence) to buy them something they don’t really need. To children, the rules are simple. They base themselves on two laws: the laws of perseverance and the law of necessity. The first law is simple: quitters never become winners. In this case the children repeatedly and incessantly nag their parents until they get the product they want. Research has shown that after 9 nagging sessions parents eventually give in. The law of necessity is more effective. This is when children use real arguments such as why a certain product would be good for them or what negative aspects would come from not purchasing something.
Kids in control
How do you stimulate Pester Power? And through which channels? A lot of insights into children and commercials have been made over the past few decades; but the strongest correlation was found between likeability and Pester Power. When children like an ad, they will do anything to get their little hands on that product. Which brings us to a few important ingredients. The brand and product need to be clearly featured. The product is often literally subject to a demonstration. Barbie and her plastic crew are total role models when it comes to this. Always make sure you have a catchy tune to accompany the ad, like the “Frosties, they’re Grrrreat!” battle cry. Role models such as famous artists, cartoon or sports figures increase the desire to ‘belong’. Exhibits A to D: the Harry Potter, Spiderman, Shrek or Pokémon hypes. Finally, always show the kids to be in ‘control’: showing adults or directing yourself to grown-ups is a big no-no.
Children can be reached through many channels, but television and the Internet are the most effective ones. That’s because children eat up and more hours of screen-time. In other words: they stare at their TV for hours on end and the Internet has become part of their daily routine. Supermarkets and store chains obviously play into this juvenile influence. Our weekly shopping course turns into an entirely different experience at a child’s eye level.
One of the biggest Pester Power successes has probably been the “Flippo” hype. Smiths crisps (now Lays) became incredibly successful by putting little plastic discs with Looney Tunes characters, in each bad, which made every kid ‘flip out’ (pun intended) trying to collect them all. Another example is the gadgets that can be found inside almost every box of cereals. Have you ever noticed that you or your child are guaranteed to study the cereals’ packaging while munching away at the breakfast table? There’s an entire experience to be had on those boxes. And the next step is a Kinder Surprise egg, the name already gives away the purpose of this treat: all the attention goes to the little surprise inside the egg, the chocolate cover only plays a supporting role.
Sometimes the whole family is being targeted. Take Renault’s campaign with The Simpsons for example. To popularise their Kangoo with the entire family, and not just the parents, they had the world-famous Simpson family endorse their product. BNP Paribas Fortis used Knorbert, the cute little piggy bank. Actimel by Danone is aimed at adults and children alike. If you’re a grown-up, Actimel is good for your resilience. If you’re a kid, Actimel will transform you into a really powerful superhero!
I’m loving it?
McDonald’s is the ultimate benchmark when it comes to Pester Power and there’s a good reason for that. A whopping 4 out of 10 Mickey D visits are the result of constant nagging. The world’s largest hamburger chain was even lauded with the Pester Power Award because of their inclusion of SpongeBob figurines in every Happy Meal. M&M’s was the runner-up for putting out oversized candy with the launch of a new Shrek film. Libraries have been filled with books about Pester Power. Our advice: get a babysitter before you head to the nearest store…