The cohort is more cognizant than previous generations of the environment and the negative effects of technology
When marketers at chocolate-maker Ferrero wanted to promote Kinder Joy egg-shaped chocolates around Easter, they partnered with Allionce Group, an agency that specializes in marketing in family-friendly venues like zoos, aquariums, and science museums. The resulting campaign was “EGGstravaganza,” a program that included Easter egg hunts, scavenger hunts, and other branded activities at 30 sites across the country. “The campaign was a huge success, not only proven by the great attendance that all events had but by the positive sentiment of consumers toward Kinder Joy and the egg hunts,” says Felipe Riera Michelotti, VP of snacks portfolio development and Ferrero mainstream chocolate innovation at ANA member Ferrero USA. “As a brand, we want Kinder Joy to be part of family traditions, and 80 percent of consumers told us they would include Kinder Joy in their next year’s egg hunts.”
Although Michelotti says they don’t market to children, but instead exclusively to parents, Ferrero’s campaign helps to illustrate how brands can creatively connect with parents and generation Alpha, the generation of people born — and yet-to-be born — between 2010 and 2024. By the end of 2025, an estimated 2 billion people worldwide will be classified as “generation Alpha,” according to Mark McCrindle, an Australian social researcher who coined the term.
“Marketers need to recognize the size of this demographic,” McCrindle says. “They are a generation of impact and influence already — ‘kidfluencers,’ as we sometimes call it. Even though they don’t have their own economic power yet, they certainly influence their parents’ choices. If your brand can’t engage with them and connect with them, then you will edge toward irrelevancy. By understanding gen Alpha, we understand something of not just what’s now, but what’s next.”
According to a Morning Consult survey of 2,001 parents with children under the age of 9, gen Alpha kids have been shaped by factors including the pandemic, inflation, and ubiquitous technology.
“Seventy percent of gen Alpha parents are millennials, who are a very stressed-out group,” says Joanna Piacenza, head of industry intelligence at Morning Consult. “These are folks who constantly have money and finances on their brain, and it’s impacting the way that they’re raising their children.”
And while they may not control spending, gen Alpha kids are much more involved in their parents’ purchasing decisions than previous generations, which will make them more discerning consumers in the not-too-distant future. “They will form opinions about brands earlier, and that will make it harder for consumer-facing brands to penetrate those minds as they get older,” Piacenza says.
As they make up the second generation of digital natives (behind gen Z), gen Alpha kids are unsurprisingly heavy users of technology.
According to a 2023 quantitative Razorfish survey of 500 Alphas ages 8 to 10 and more than 450 gen Zers ages 16 to 24, 43 percent of the respondents had a computer tablet before the age of six, and 58 percent received their own smartphone by the age of 10.
“To say that this generation is digitally native is like saying they breathe oxygen,” says Dani Mariano, president at marketing agency Razorfish, whose clients include Church & Dwight, Dove, and Samsung. “They are digital ninjas. Their adoption of devices started much earlier because of COVID. They have a very clear understanding of which device does what and how they want to use them.”
However, for as much as they swim online, older gen Alphas are more aware of their devices’ effect on their mental health. According to the Razorfish survey, just 20 percent of Alphas say they would like to spend more time online; nearly three-quarters say they prefer to go outside and use technology less to manage their mental health and disconnect. “They have a different relationship with technology,” Mariano says. “They see tech as empowerment, not as a tech dependency, and they are much more in tune with their mental health.”
Marketers need to think outside the screen and create engaging, immersive experiences that blend the digital and physical worlds. “Their expectation of brands is so much higher than gen Z,” Mariano says. “Getting Amazon delivery within two hours is normal for them. That experience has to be great.”
What’s more, traditional marketing channels generally don’t click with gen Alphas. “Stop interrupting their experiences and start finding ways that your brand can add value,” says Mark Giovino, CEO and founding partner at Allionce Group, which has worked with companies such as General Mills, Kimberly-Clark, and Walmart. “More than any generation before, they will turn their attention completely off if they feel like they’re being interrupted.”
Striving for Meaningful Change
Research suggests gen Alpha and their parents have a strong orientation toward social values. Asked in the Razorfish survey, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” more than 30 percent said “To make a difference or help others/planet,” while only about 5 percent said “to become famous.”
“This is a generation that has never known anything but connected, and that’s changed them,” says Suzie Domnick, CEO of Very Big World Entertainment and president of the Children’s Media Association, a nonprofit focused on the children’s industry. “They know more about the world, and they feel more about the world. They’re striving to be independent and seek change.”
Brands will need to communicate a strong sense of purpose. “This generation is going to want transparent brand messaging that resonates with what they believe in,” Domnick says, “which is that they see everyone as equal, they want to fix the planet, and they are compassionate about people around them.”
Growing Onus on Compliance
Gen Alpha’s brand preferences are being shaped from a variety of sources. According to the Morning Consult report, 85 percent of parents of kids between ages 5 and 9 said they requested products based on seeing them in the store — more than any other source of influence. And 56 percent of gen Alpha parents report that their kids watch shopping content like haul and unboxing videos (48 percent for parents of kids ages 0–4), where they get ideas about new products and brands.
Gaming is another area that companies are using to reach kids. Several brands, including Crocs, Nike, and Ralph Lauren, have established a presence in online gaming platforms like Roblox.
batteryPOP, a media platform that specializes in videos catering to kids, weds brands with kidfluencers. For example, Nickelodeon hired JKrew Gaming, a family with more than one million YouTube subscribers, to stream themselves visiting the “Nickverse,” a branded Roblox environment.
Whatever the channel, marketing to children requires complying with a growing body of regulation at the state and federal levels, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). Marketers also need to be aware of a spate of new laws aimed at curbing kids’ use of social media channels.
Indeed, advertisers must limit their collection of personal data and should tread carefully when working with kid-aged influencers, as there have been growing calls to regulate the industry.
“Fragmentation is the reality of the media landscape for any age group, but especially this younger generation,” says John Nolie, co-founder and head of partnerships at batteryPOP. “Contextual alignment is really the most critical component, and it’s really the only tool that we have at our disposal because of COPPA. Finding pockets of content that are going to align with your brand messaging and your target audience is critical.”