Meet Gen Alpha: Tiny Tech Titans with Big Brand Influence

By Brendan Gill  | 

They’re not even out of elementary school yet, but, nevertheless, some of the world’s biggest brands are putting serious creative and marketing juice into courting the aptly monikered Alpha generation, the children—and babies soon to arrive—of younger millennials and older Gen Zers.

Why such an early start? Because those born between 2010 and 2025—the first generation wholly of the 21st Century—are expected to be the most technologically literate, materially endowed and longest-living to ever inhabit the planet. And if those differentiators aren’t enough of a reason to get marketing mavens strategizing, here are a few more.

Inside Influence
Alphas rule the roost at home, and, consequently, are starting to evolve the consumer landscape to their liking. In “Understanding Generation Alpha”, a recent survey of 8,000 millennial parents around the world with children between four and nine years old, Hotwire noted the unprecedented impact Alphas are already having on their parents’ spending. The survey found that 65 percent of all parents are letting their children influence technology purchases, particularly regarding TVs, smartphones and tablets. Among U.S. parents, that number spiked to more than 80 percent.

But Alpha pester power extends well beyond the screens their parents buy. Jeff Fromm, a partner at ad agency Barkley and president of FutureCast, which studies generational trends, noted that Alpha kids are influencing many other purchases such as family vacations and restaurant choices, as millennial parents are more likely than previous generations to give their children a voice in spending decisions.

Raised on Tech–Literally
As Ad Age noted, Alphas’ technology fixation is natural given that Apple debuted the iPad at the dawn of the generation. Mark McCrindle, the social researcher who named Gen Alpha, defined the cohort as the first to be given screens at infancy as pacifiers, entertainers and educational aids. Consequently they will be more comfortable swiping a mobile phone or tablet or speaking to a voice assistant than any demographic before them.

For marketers though, this tech-savviness is a double-edged sword.  Alphas’ device dependence offers brands a powerful engagement gateway for building early relationships with them—and their parents—but also makes them more difficult to reach through traditional kid marketing methods, such a linear TV.

Big Brands on the Bandwagon
Forward-looking brands are aware of all this and are already developing novel Alpha campaigns aimed at reaching them in their element early in life. Proctor & Gamble, for example, is capitalizing on Alphas’ Alexa facility with a smart-speaker-led tooth brushing tie-in for Crest Kids that uses songs, jokes and fun facts to get kids brushing for the recommended length of time.

Others are using pint-sized YouTube and Instagram influencers to reach their young targets. Seven-year-old Ryan of Ryan ToysReview has been doing reviews on his Ryan’s World YouTube channel since he was four years old. Attracted by his 18 million subscriber base, brands big and small are increasingly tapping the trendsetter through digital video or clever sponsorships that provide great reach and ROI. Toymaker Pocket.watch, for example, launched a line of toys on Ryan’s World last fall and the inventory sold out in less that 10 minutes on Walmart’s website on Black Friday.

It’s too early to tell how the Alphas will change as they age. They are the most diverse generation yet in terms of race, income and family makeup and they’re inheriting a quickly-evolving world. They are the consumers of the future and brands should be actively looking to court them now while they have the chance to forge lasting bonds.

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