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This story originally appeared on Business Insider.
They’re not old enough to open their own checking account or drive to a store, but they are steering some important spending decisions — and companies are taking notice.
With birth years starting in 2013, Generation Alpha is already the most plugged-in generation of children yet, developing some strikingly powerful brand affinities before they reach age 9, according to a recent survey from Morning Consult.
Among the findings: kids love McDonald’s. Like, they’re really lovin’ it.
Thirty-seven percent of Gen Alpha parents said the restaurant with the Golden Arches was their kids’ favorite, six times as many as those who said runner-up Chick-fil-A was their top choice. Morning Consult says these were open-ended, unaided responses — in other words, not chosen from a list.
And while Gen Alpha parents (who are largely millennials) are rather health-conscious adults, 43% still said their kids eat fast food at least once a week.
The other strong favorite in the findings was YouTube: kids watch a lot of YouTube.
Fifty-four percent of Gen Alpha kids own tablets – and they watch a lot of streaming video content, mostly on YouTube, Disney+, and Netflix, the survey found.
What they see online — particularly in unboxing videos and other shopping content — directly influences their retail choices, according to 56% of the parents in the survey.
Still, digital influence is a distant follower to the top driver of Gen Alpha brand and product selection: seeing stuff on store shelves. Nearly three-quarters of kids 4 and under, and 85% of kids 5 to 9, have asked their parents for something they saw during a shopping trip.
“Parents know that one of the best ways to avoid impulse buys is to leave the kids at home, not keep them off digital devices,” the report’s authors write.
The Morning Consult results are consistent with prior research that found companies were spending over $16 billion on marketing to tap into young children’s $286 billion influence on adult spending, according to the 2009 book “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne.
Payne’s book also highlighted findings that children as young as 2 can recognize brands on shelves and that they have recognition of 300-400 brands by age 10.
“When seeking to connect with Gen Alpha, brands can look to established leaders like McDonald’s and Disney,” the Morning Consult researchers conclude. “Not only does each brand have decades of experience catering to families’ needs, but they’ve also managed to maintain relevance and make a connection with Gen Alpha already.”
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