Blame the Parents…But Not if You Want Influence

Playmobil family. Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Parental influence has continued to play an important part of engaging youth audiences – not least because much research still points to what an influential role they play, how parents stay younger for longer and young people are closer (in the main) to their creators. See Engaging Youth 2020.

But how does this work when we actually want to influence a youth audience and engage them within a campaign? We spoke to three pros who understand the importance of the parental audience to get their advice on the Hear It Podcast.

First up, Simon Lucey, MD of the Hype Collective, a student marketing agency that’s worked with a breadth of brands whilst creating opportunities for students.  We discuss their research into the role of parents as influencers’ on their children’s jobs, degrees, apprenticeships and the world of work. You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts here or through our website here.

Next up we spoke with Nick Richardson, CEO of Kids Insights, a rapidly growing global market intelligence agency, looking at attitudes, behaviours and consumption of children and their parents in order to translate that to inform business. As well as sharing reports on how the world has changed for children and parents throughout lockdown, predicting trends and household dynamics, we talk about how understanding parents can play a critical role in your marketing strategy with a youth audience. You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts here or through Podbean here.

Amanda Vernalls, Head of Research & Insight at the Youth Sport Trust talks about the importance of parents as influencers when it comes to perhaps one of the biggest life skills going – being physically active. The YST looked at the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on children and young people as they returned following the first lockdown and have since been getting parents’ view on how their children have coped through the winter lockdown.  You can listen to this episode on Apple podcasts here on through Podbean here.

So, what did we learn?

“Parents are a huge influence on their children and you can see that coming through in the data” explains Amanda. “That’s what they are going to see every day and that cuts across everything, from eating habits and attitudes through to being active.”

“Change in activity levels in children during lockdown reflected their parents change in activity levels. We also see how parents feel about sport and physical activity, strongly influences how their children feel about it” she adds.

When it comes to higher education and career choice, there are often misconceptions between parental expectations and reality, as Simon explains.

“Young people were taking salary far more importantly than their parents… parents in the main, wanted a job that made their children happy.”

“Young people are pretty pragmatic in terms of what they want; a level of stability, they don’t want a job for life, a level of salary and to feel like their job has purpose” he adds.

When it comes to student recruitment however, considering parental influence is critical, particularly when it comes to social mobility.

“Not all parents are involved and included equally…. I think if you care about social mobility properly, you need to think about concerns parents might have because it’s a privilege not to worry about the money of going to university” says Simon.

But what about the impact of lockdown?

 “We saw growing mental, physical and social issues among children” says Amanda. “We know because of the way children’s brains are developing, to be locked down and restricted has a much greater impact.

“When schools reopened, we conducted research among PE teachers. Around 3/4 of children had low levels of fitness and around a half had mental health issues. We know PE can address this but at the time, schools were struggling to offer it and teachers felt guidelines were a barrier to delivering it. So, we’ve been developing resources to help teachers to keep offering PE and physical activity.”

But the ecosystem and home dynamics have altered so significantly, that brands really must understand these shifts in order to engage their audiences, as Nick explains;

“Kids are becoming more financially enabled and empowered. We’ve seen the relationship between parents and children changing. Parents have spent more time with their children and are developing a far better understanding. I think that will stay that way for some time.”

How to better understand youth and parental dynamics?

 “Good campaigns always start with a good understanding of the audience. There’s a lot out there as a starting point to identify key issues and who needs support; in sport for instance, there are lots of national and local stats and research, lots of charities as well” says Amanda.

“But you can’t beat the value of speaking with your audience. Spending time living in people’s shoes and hearing the challenges first hand is really important. Early research is around fact-finding; keeping diaries, real life experiences, really understand the pinch points and details. That’s where you can develop solutions and empathy. Once you’ve done that you can build and test those ideas with people before you go on to do something more quantitative.”

Understanding the fragmented ecosystem around young people is key to winning with parents, as Nick tells us.

“It’s really important to include parents. With research in general it’s all about context. When you look at kids’ ecosystem, parents play a really significant role.

“With COVID, some of those pieces of the puzzle have been taken off the table, whilst some have got bigger. Because that ecosystem is so fragmented, you really do need to understand how to engage those audiences.

“Defining your audience is absolutely critical, you can waste a lot of time, energy and resources and be widely off the mark if you don’t.”

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