Older children posing for Back to School

Reaching Generation Alpha During Back-to-School Season Sets Brands Up for The Holidays

Generation Alpha is poised to become the most influential digital generation. Millennials and Gen Z have long dominated conversations about purchasing power – from where and when they shop, to how they consume information, to why they gravitate toward certain brands. However, this conversation is about to shift. Studies have shown that brand affinity can begin in early childhood, with memories from the first decade of life having a significant impact on brand loyalty during adulthood. What’s more, new data from our latest report in partnership with Ipsos Mori suggests that Gen Alpha already has influence over household purchases across categories. 

With back-to-school season underway and the festive holidays on the horizon, it’s particularly critical that brands understand how to connect with the influential Generation Alpha to effectively reach family audiences and lay the foundation for lifelong brand loyalty. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), total back-to-school spending this year in the U.S. is expected to surpass $37B, up from $33.9B last year and an all-time high since the NRF started compiling this data in 2003. Brands that have effectively reached Generation Alpha in their back-to-school campaigns will be set up for success as we enter the holiday hustle later this year.  

For marketers looking to reach Generation Alpha and their families here are four critical insights based on our latest research report “The Streaming Generation: Shaping the Future of Family Advertising.”

Family viewing time is on the rise, with children’s programming at the center. 

Kids are watching more children’s shows, films, videos, and clips than 12 months ago – and this isn’t just due to pandemic lockdowns. More than a third of parents expect their child’s time watching children’s programming to increase further, despite easing pandemic restrictions across the U.S. 

But it isn’t just kids that are spending more time watching their favorite childhood characters – parents are joining in on the fun too. More than 80% of U.S. families are co-viewing kids’ content together every single week, with nearly half doing so daily. As advertisers look to reach consumers, it’s critical that they capitalize on family time spent enjoying children’s programming to spark conversations about the best products. 

We know what you’re thinking – do kids actually have the attention span to notice and engage with ads? According to our research, yes. Nearly 6 in 10 children pay either the same amount of attention or more attention to the ads than the show they are watching. 

Families are craving nostalgic, joyful content. 

During challenging times – be it an economic recession or a pandemic (or both) – brands have turned to nostalgia to help consumers remember a romanticized, happier era. The “nostalgia effect” has been proven to increase spending, while also boosting feelings of social connectedness. It makes sense that 64% of parents choose content for their children that reminds them of their childhood. 

Additionally, parents are seeking joyful content, with 83% looking for content that makes them laugh and 82% wanting content to make them feel happy. Some major advertisers, like Crayola, have already started capitalizing on this trend, sharing that they have adopted a celebratory tone during back-to-school this year, following a challenging year for students and teachers alike. 

Parents are already thinking about holiday shopping 

In the marketing business, the lengthening of the holiday shopping season continues, and parents are in fact starting to plan for the holidays earlier than before. According to our research, 8 in 10 parents will plan their holiday purchases ahead of the November-December rush. This means, back-to-school has been a critical moment for advertisers to get in front of a captive family audience before those holiday purchasing decisions are made. 

Don’t neglect the in-store experience. 

About 6 in 10 parents expect to spend more on gifts in 2021 than in previous years, with many planning to shop via a mix of online and in-person experiences. While it’s important to reach family audiences on the digital platforms they are most frequently using at home—like YouTube and YouTube Kids—don’t neglect the in-store experience. The most effective campaigns seamlessly marry the digital and real-world experiences, creating a cohesive brand story and image to capture the attention of Generation Alpha and their families. 

One thing that’s certain is that there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what this upcoming school year will look like and indeed the Christmas holidays too. However, brands that can capture the hearts and minds of Generation Alpha and their families through nostalgic, happy and educational content will be positioned for success, laying the foundation for a solid holiday season and lifelong brand loyalty.