In today's YouTube culture, the younger generation is influenced by its own set of "experts," including online celebrities and social media stars, and marketers should embrace that.
For generations, consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketers have relied on the same hypothesis when it comes to influencers: parents (and especially mothers) were the product influencers in households. Year after year, the results were measured, focus groups held, findings recorded, and this assumption was proven beyond any doubt.
Take hair care brands for example. The conventional wisdom and sales model was that if we could get a mother to purchase and use our brand of shampoo, she would be highly likely to use that same brand of shampoo for her daughter starting at a very young age, long before the daughter has any kind of purchasing influence or power (mother as influencer). By that natural inheritance, our shampoo becomes the daughter’s favorite brand choice as well — the brand she trusts because she knows it works, and it’s what she’s used to. When she later becomes a proud parent herself, she will use the same brand of shampoo for her children. It’s the tested, proven hypothesis of parental influence with the potential to span generations. Talk about lifetime consumer value!
This methodology applies to more than just shampoo. I use Tide as my laundry detergent because my parents used it, I use a Braun razor because it’s the first razor my dad ever bought me. It’s simple human nature; we trust in the information we have gotten from our parents because they are our trusted advisors and we believe that they know what’s best for us.
However, this model has been evolving for a while now, in large part due to the massive amount of information that is now available to our children. If we think about it, 20 years ago, there was no way for us to get an independent comparison of razors — I got the trustworthy information from my own influencers network, my family and parents. But with the massive amount of easily accessible information available today, "consumers" age 12 and younger are starting to do their own product research. They are simply more informed than their parents were (are) about the brands that matter to them. Add to that their increased exposure to advertising and media through social networks and mobile, and they have more brand and product exposure than any generation before them.
There is another interesting shift in behavior that has turned the longstanding hypothesis of parental influence upside down. The easy access to information and product exposure has turned our youth into "experts"; more and more parents are being influenced by their children, who are now the trusted advisors to their parents…and actually get them to try a new product. This change in behavior is happening across a wide variety of categories, but we have seen the biggest shift from parent to child influencer in the Beauty, Lifestyle, Electronics, and Travel spaces.
The younger generation in turn is being influenced by its own new sets of "experts"; today’s youth has more confidence in the opinions of YouTube influencers and online celebrities than that of their own parents.
This rise in digital youth influencers opens up a lot of new challenges and opportunities for marketers. Brands need to reframe the way they think about influencers, embrace the new "children as their parents’ advisors" approach, and explore the opportunities that open up when we can leverage children’s opinions and product "reviews" in order to influence their parents’ purchasing decisions.