Gen Alpha loves McDonald’s, YouTube and telling parents what to buy

  • Generation Alpha is the most connected generation of children to date and develops strong brand awareness by age 9.
  • 37% of Generation Alpha parents said their child’s favorite restaurant was McDonald’s, beating the 6% of runner-up Chick-fil-A.
  • The kids also watch a lot of YouTube and ask their parents to buy things they see in stores.

They’re not old enough to open their own checking account or drive to a store, but they drive some important spending decisions — and businesses are taking notice.

With birth years beginning in 2013, Generation Alpha is already the most connected generation of children, developing some strikingly strong brand affinities before they reach the age of 9, according to a recent Morning Consult survey.

Among the results: Kids love McDonald’s. They really love it.

Thirty-seven percent of Alpha Generation parents said the restaurant with the Golden Arches was their children’s favorite restaurant, six times as many as those who said second-place Chick-fil-A was their first choice. Morning Consult says these were open-ended, unsupported answers – in other words, not selected from a list.

And while Alpha parents (who are mostly Millennials) tend to be more health-conscious adults, 43% still said their kids eat fast food at least once a week.

The other strong favorite in the results was YouTube: Children watch YouTube a lot.

54 percent of Alpha Generation 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 unboxing videos and other shopping content — directly influences their purchasing decisions, according to 56% of parents surveyed.

Still, digital influence is a distant successor to Gen Alpha’s key driver of brand and product choice: seeing things on store shelves. Almost three-quarters of children under the age of 4 and 85% of children between the ages of 5 and 9 have asked their parents about something they saw while shopping.

“Parents know that one of the best ways to avoid impulse buying is to keep children at home and not away from digital devices,” the report’s authors write.

Morning Consult’s findings align with previous research showing that companies spend over $16 billion on marketing to understand the $286 billion impact on parenting, according to Kim John Payne’s 2009 book Simplicity Parenting Use adult spending.

Payne’s book also highlighted the findings that children can recognize brands on shelves by the age of two and by the age of ten they recognize 300 to 400 brands.

“If brands want to connect with Gen Alpha, they can turn to established market leaders like McDonald’s and Disney,” conclude Morning Consult researchers. “Each brand not only has decades of experience in addressing the needs of families, but has also managed to stay relevant and already connected to Gen Alpha.”

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