The audience of the future is here

The president of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, New York, says digital purchase decisions have become a family affair

Upon seeing an advertisement for Karisma Hotels, my eight-year-old son went online to check room prices and dates in an effort to plan our next family vacation. He then searched CheapAir to find flight times and costs for United Airlines (his favorite airline) to Mexico. Our New Year’s holiday is now booked.

As I reflected on his ingenuity, I realized his seamless interaction through the on-line off-line world means like any (older) consumer, he’s being influenced by brands. While we restrict his "gadget-time," he’s now exposed to much of the content and messages in the current paid, owned and earned landscape.

This digital connectivity has changed the dynamic of our family purchase decisions – our son plays a stronger role than ever as his interaction with the world increases. Our family purchases are more collaborative than ever before. They are no longer binary.

When my wife purchases from Fresh Direct, he sits next to her to point out the items he wants. We log into Amazon and find our cart is already full of items he’s placed there.

Many brands are soul-searching about the best way to bring in new users and grow penetration. In recent years, targeting Millennials has become the default solution. In fact, the majority of the briefs in the agency right now are millennial focused.

Most marketers are not taking a step back to cultivate and understand family decision-making and future audience behavior. When Ogilvy pitched the Coke Zero business last summer, my son reminded me he loves Coke Zero, but he usually sees more Diet Coke on display. Clearly, even the youngest generation can be impacted by distribution.

Whilst marketers need not rush out and start directly targeting eight-year-olds (I would not be a happy parent), they should consider new ways of understanding this audience’s immediate influence and the changing dynamics of family purchase decisions.

Here’s a simple concept: Dedicate a very small portion of the marketing budget every year to tracking the opinions, views and purchase behaviors of young family influencers who will be future purchasers:

  • Conduct family observational research; use this to glean insights and better understand new collaborative family purchasing dynamics
  • Pilot mini-beta tests; determine the best means to influence these purchasing habits. Start a conversation rather than directly target younger consumers (hint, hint).  This generation spends their "gadget time" on YouTube. Video bloggers are the new celebrities.
  • Convene an on-going panel of eight- to 12-year-olds; check in with them once a year to track their views about your brand over time.

Setting aside $100,000 today for "future learning" could be worth millions down the road.

Digital, social and new technologies are rapidly transforming our industry. But the real disruption will come from human behavior. It won’t be long before my son has money to spend on his own.

As a brand marketer, will you be ready?

Adam Tucker is president, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, New York.

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