Unless appearing on the Netflix hit show Old Enough, most kids will have their food and groceries bought by a parent or caregiver. Ask any parent, though, and you’ll find that any child old enough to point is likely having their say in what’s bought for them.
So, how can brands appeal to both, and what are the dangers of trying to bypass parents by eliciting pester power?
Katrina McCarter is the founder and CEO of Marketing to Mums, a marketing and research consultancy that specialises in helping businesses sell more effectively to the world’s most powerful consumers: mothers.
She says parents don’t look favourably on brands that target their children, unless a product from such a brand is ‘parent approved’.
“With an increasing childhood obesity issue faced in Australia, I believe brands have a moral obligation to review their marketing strategy and limit, if not omit, marketing to children, particularly if the product has poor nutritional quality,” she says.
Recent introduction of the Food and Beverage Advertising Code by the Australian Association of National Advertisers is a “strong initiative” she adds.
“We’ve also seen leadership by big brands, including Unilever, who in 2020 decided to stop advertising foods and beverages to children,” says Ms McCarter.
Over the years, she has noted the emergence of brands, such as Whole Kids, that address childhood obesity and access to “good foods”.
“This purpose-led brand has strong support from Australian mothers,” she says. “As parents themselves and strong advocates for better quality snack foods for all Australian parents, [Whole Kids founders] Monica and James Meldrum have grown a significant following … and seen the brand expand to be ranged in Woolworths, Coles, select IGAs and Chemist Warehouse stores.”
Ms McCarter says grocery retailers and FMCG brands looking to optimise their product offerings for kids should invest in adequate research.
“Identify your most profitable segment of the parent market and then invest in understandingly this segment deeply,” she says. “Not all mothers [and parents] are the same. Mothers’ behaviours are changing at a faster rate than many other consumer segments. It’s critical to stay relevant and responsive to their needs and motivations.”
She adds that it’s the subtle insights that can be particularly profound and have a huge impact on a brand’s bottom line.
“I’m always taken aback by the brands who build their strategy without adequate data and understanding of their core audience,” she says. “Overlook mum at your peril.”
Read more about kids products and how they’re marketed in the latest issue of Retail World.