Target Your Business to an Age Group, Not to the World!

By: John Stanley

As a consultant working with retailers, one of the first questions I ask a client is can they paint a picture for me of a typical customer. Some clients can be very specific, whilst others just give me a blank look, then follow it up by saying everyone is a potential customer; how can they paint a picture of a typical customer?

Alas, very few retailers can claim to have the whole of society as a customer base, the rest of us have to target specific consumer groups.

Historically, these groups were targeted based on their likes and dislikes; this still is an important factor, but in the next series of articles I would like to take you back a step further and analyse the likes and dislikes of consumer age groups.

Market researchers split the population up into Spoodles (Spoiled Toddlers), Pester Power (children), Generation Y (15–25 years olds), Generation X or IKEA babies (25-35 years olds), The Jones Generation (35-49 year olds), Baby Boomers (50-65 year olds) and Greying Tigers (65 year olds upwards).

As retailers we need to decide who are our target group and are we merchandising displaying, promoting and providing the customer service this group finds attractive and appealing.

In this series of articles we will analyse each group from a retail perspective and offer ideas on how to grow your business when targeting one of these groups. In this article we will focus on the first two market groups.

To some people a Spoodle is a breed of dog and to others it is the under 11s. The name Spoodles comes from Spoiled Toddlers and is a name used by Walt Disney for one of its children’s restaurants.

The parent’s icon for Spoodles is David and Posh Beckham, who are looked on as classic Spoodle heroes.

To the toy industry, Spoodles are the key target market, but the key is that if you can keep young children happy, you can keep their parents happy and happy parents spend more money.

In 2003, the world’s biggest retailer identified the importance of this group and introduced an exclusive range of infant wear ‘Child of Mine’. One of the reasons for this was Wal-Mart had an eye on the mother-consumer. Even so, Spoodles are worth $3 billion a year to Wal-Mart in their own right.

The challenge is to look at your own retail sector and to look at the opportunities you have to attract the mother-consumer.

Spoodle Food
The organic food industry and locally sourced foods is a huge growth sector and also receiving political attention in many countries.

Rachel’s Organic is a leading U.K. organic dairy manufacturer and they recently launched organic yoghurts for toddlers.

The objective behind the marketing campaign is that if toddlers are introduced to organic foods, they are more likely to become adult organic food buyers with the pressure on child obesity, organic health toddler foods may have an opportunity.

The Toy Market and Spoodles
Traditionally, parents went to toyshops for toys, but that is all changing. The current trend for electronic toys means the electronic retailer is winning out over the traditional toy retailer.

55% of many toy retailers' income comes from the pre Christmas buying frenzy; the toy industry is probably the most fashion conscious of the retail sectors. It is often governed by what is coming out at the movies. Once the movie has done the rounds, they toy is obsolete in the consumer’s mind.

Spoodle Gardeners
The South African garden industry introduced Mulberry Bear as a character to encourage Spoodles to become interested in gardening. Many garden centres now have a children’s garden sector where they have a whole category of products aimed at children.

Garden centres in South Africa and the USA have started children’s gardening clubs with the aim of getting gardeners into the habit at an earlier age.

Pester Power
The 8-14 year olds, the tweens, rely on pester power to influence their parents when it comes to shopping. This market in Canada alone is worth $20 billion (Ref. Ropin the Web, Alberta Govt. Summer 2004)

The main source of enjoyment for this age group is music, TV and sports. This means as a retailer you need to think through some key issues.

As the Alberta research emphasises:

1. Make sure your business is connected in some way with local sports programmes that are heavily supported by this age group.

2. This age group has a green streak, therefore make sure you have an environmental message you can get across to this group.

3. Sponsor school events, such as “Student of the Week”, “Athlete of the Year” or any other appropriate award.

4. Promote your business via S.M.S. This group will not see or register your traditional adverts.

5. Relate your products to fundraising events wherever possible.

6. Look at fast food retailers and build into your offer playgrounds, contests, games and other incentives.

7. If there is a company to closely watch when marketing to tweens it is ‘American Girl’.

TV Does Have a Role
Why is it called pester power? Look at the results of the research carried out by Raising Kids in the U.K.

12% of parents think advertising to kids should be banned
30% think adverts are a great tool to introduce kids to marketing


83% of parents have been pestered to buy a specific Christmas toy
68% of parents have been pestered for snacks
30% of parents have been pestered over a movie

If we reverse the coin, pester power is a highly successful retail tool, especially as 30% of Australian parents take their children shopping (Ref B&T 12 August 2005). Hence the success of McDonald’s Happy Meals. The kids and the parents buy.

How Pester Power Works
When my daughter was younger we fell into the pester power market. In our location we had a choice of four garden centres we could visit. Our daughter was adamant that we could only visit one of them. When we challenged her why that one, the response was they recognised her as a person and gave her a flower.

You don’t need a lot of money to capture the market; it’s the little things that make the difference. As a result of that care, we are still loyal to Zanthorrea Nursery many years later.

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John Stanley is a conference speaker and retail consultant with over 20 years experience in 15 countries. John works with retailers around the world assisting them with their merchandising, staff and management training, customer flow, customer service and image.

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