Preschoolers: An emerging consumer set

This month, LiveWire talked on-line with moms and dads of kids ages two to five to explore the role kids play as family purchase influencers, as well as their level of brand awareness and computer usage. We discovered that these youngsters...
July 1, 1999

This month, LiveWire talked on-line with moms and dads of kids ages two to five to explore the role kids play as family purchase influencers, as well as their level of brand awareness and computer usage. We discovered that these youngsters represent an increasingly important consumer set, as they are demonstrating more advanced consumer behavior than ever before.

What we found:

Preschoolers have substantial influence over many purchases made by their parents. As a whole, more than half of our adult panel said that their child’s opinions on products and brands play a large role in their ultimate purchase decisions. Our parents agreed unanimously that their kids have a major influence in the food and snack category. More than 80% of our panelists agreed that their children’s opinions affect video and book purchases, and over half said their kids have a major influence on which restaurants they go to, what clothes they buy, and the type of health and beauty products they purchase.

LiveWire then asked about what kind of brand knowledge these kids have. Three-quarters of the panel said their children are very familiar with brands and often make specific brand requests. (Keep in mind these kids are between the ages of two and five!) Among kids who are brand-conscious, this awareness became evident between the ages of two and three. Brands highest on the early recognition list are Cheerios, McDonalds, Disney, Rice Krispies, Pop Tarts, Gap and

Captain Crunch.

Nearly all of our parent panelists say their kids use a computer and spend between one and three hours a week on computer activities. The average age of computer introduction was two. The top two computer software brands in both child-recognition and use are Fisher Price and JumpStart.

What parents said:

The majority of our sample said that their children are growing up faster than ever before, citing behavior that demonstrates brand awareness only seen in older kids in the past. Parents attribute this to a number of possible causes, including changes in parenting roles, more kid-exposure to new media and an increase in marketing efforts aimed at younger kids.

‘Parenting today is very different than in decades past. We are more empowering, thereby teaching our children that they have a right to participate in decisions that affect them.’ Susan, Massachusetts

‘I do believe that kids today grow up faster. People put Nike shoes on newborns and dress them up in Gap clothes. Since some kids are babysat by television, it stands to reason that they will become more familiar with name brands at an earlier age.’ Lisa, Georgia

‘My first brand recognition was at age 12, when I discovered Levi’s. Today, with children’s programming and commercials, they start asking for specific things at around my daughter’s age (three) because they have seen the commercial. Even if they have no idea what it is, they want it because of the commercial. Also, the computer has really influenced the type of play at this young age. Where my generation played with blocks, dolls or toy cars, the kids today want to play with computers and video games.’ Julianne, Ohio

‘I had no idea what brand of shoes I had on my feet until I was in at least the fourth grade or so. I probably never knew the difference between generic and name brands until I was six or seven. My son wore his first pair of Nike sneakers when he was two weeks old, so I guess parents have to take some of the blame for children being so knowledgeable about name-brand items.’ Heather, Florida

‘It is important for her to have an opinion when purchasing certain items-such as what she wants to eat, videos to buy, software for the computer, or clothes. I always have the last say, but letting her make decisions helps me to learn about her, and lets her show her own personality.’ Jean, Pennsylvania

Next month: KidThink tunes in to tube offerings for girls.

Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Kid Think talks with kids via LiveWire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of more than 1,100 on-line families across the United States. Both Kid Think and LiveWire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York-based communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or subjects you would like Kid Think to cover, call Paul Kurnit at 212-415-2992 or e-mail

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