Brands are taking notice of Gen Alpha

Marketing to a cohort that is 13 years old and under comes with its own challenges.
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· 5 min read

This summer, advertising research firm Adalytics released research about YouTube, claiming the video giant may have served ads on videos targeted to kids and installed cookies on the browsers of people watching those videos, potentially in violation of a federal privacy law. Google has denied the allegations.

The report underscores the restrictions marketers can face when trying to reach Gen Alpha, whose oldest members are around 13 years old.

Companies including Claire’s and Crayola have rolled out campaigns geared toward the demo. Meanwhile, Disney+ and ESPN+ recently aired a Toy Story-themed NFL alternative telecast—and next year’s Super Bowl is set to have an alternate telecast on Nickelodeon—in a bid to reach younger fans.

As marketers try to capture this generation's attention, they’re relying on different strategies. Some are leaning into gaming and metaverse campaigns, while others are hoping to reach them via their parents.

“We’re going to see a lot more happening with Gen Alpha in the next two to three years,” Christina O’Toole, VP of marketing at Refuel Agency, told us.

Chip off the old block

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents websites and online services from collecting personal data from kids under 13 without parental consent. More federal legislation could be on the way, as Congress considers more comprehensive bills that could place further restrictions on advertising targeted to minors.

“We can reach audiences 13 and under, but it is a very challenging audience to reach from a marketing perspective. They are highly protected because of the laws around data collection,” O’Toole said. “Really, the way that we, as an agency, are able to reach them, for the most part, is through their parents.”

For example, Refuel marketed the children’s TV series Where’s Waldo across 530 schools in the US. The agency created branded activities and a curriculum, with materials including activity sheets and classroom posters. Some of the take-home materials featured reminders to watch the show.

Similarly, marketing agency Engage Youth Co. is currently pitching a nutrition app geared toward Gen Alpha. Brehnen Knight, the agency’s founder and CEO, told us that marketing the app will involve showing parents how they can use the app with their children.

Game on

Marketers are also using gaming and metaverse platforms, particularly Roblox, to reach Gen Alpha. Engage Youth Co. worked with the company behind online camping experience Camp Bonkers to integrate it with Roblox, letting players attend camp on the platform. Brands ranging from American Eagle to Walmart have also created experiences on Roblox.

YouTube is another platform that’s popular among Gen Alpha: A study conducted this year by digital agency Razorfish and research firm GWI that surveyed 500 members of Gen Alpha between the ages of 8 and 10 found that 51% “first hear about brands through YouTube videos.”

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This year, BloxSnacks, a fruit snack and juice brand, debuted with the help of YouTubers. Jon Lesser, CEO of BloxSnacks, described the company as “the first creator-led CPG brand made for Gen Alpha” in a LinkedIn post earlier this year.

Each of its flavors is tied to a specific YouTuber who has a stake in the business; for instance, its mixed-fruit variety features Aphmau, a gaming creator. BloxSnacks, which sells its products at Walmart, has made more than a million dollars in sales each month in the six months it’s been available, according to Modern Retail.

(Not) cut from the same cloth

As marketers increasingly pay attention to Gen Alpha, they’ll find that—like any generation—they’re not a monolith.

“There’s so many diverse groups of folks within the Gen Alpha community. From a sophisticated marketing perspective, you can’t just plug in generalities,” Knight said.

Some marketers predict that, given how close Gen Alpha is to Gen Z in age, they are likely to share some of the same values: “We see a lot of similarities in the data from the generation that they’re on the cusp of,” O’Toole said. “They’re the most diverse generation in America, or they’re going to be. They are a technology-native generation, and they’re really strong believers in cause.”

For many brands, Gen Alpha isn’t their target audience just yet. Take Dormify, a company that sells dorm room essentials and décor. Amanda Zuckerman, co-founder, president, and chief brand officer of Dormify, told us that Gen Alpha is currently a “satellite audience” for the company.

“We have a new crop of students that are starting college every single year. Every year, the intent is the same, but maybe some of the behaviors or patterns or trends that we’re seeing are different,” she said. “We have to continuously evolve based upon what is authentic to that generation at any given time.”

Even though Gen Alpha might not be Dormify’s core customer base just yet, Zuckerman said their habits are already impacting how the brand can reach them.

“They’re growing up on the internet. The age gap between this generation and the creators or influencers that they’re following and looking up to is getting wider and wider, so they have such an understanding of what college life is like because of how online they are,” she said. “So what that means for us is, it’s a bigger opportunity to reach that younger audience with creators that we might already be working with.”

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