Posted June 10, 2014, By Keisha Herbert, Researcher
It is important for brands to be attuned to the rapidly changing culture of the British family. Grandparents are playing a much more influential role in family life; families are increasingly leaning on them not only for trust and support but also to fulfil the needs and desires of their day-to-day lives.
Currently, grandparents born in the ‘baby boomer’ generation hold 80% of the nation’s wealth, which equates to a whopping 6.7trn pounds. Baby boomers are on average more financially comfortable than their own children. Societies current phase of belt-tightening due to the current economic climate has incurred an increased financial level of support from grandparents.
Grandparental support is most prevalent in younger families. In the latest Liverpool Victoria report on child spending it has been found that the cost of raising a child to the age of 21 is an astronomical £222,000. A figure deemed insurmountable to many. Grandparents have subsequently eased the financial burden, taking on some of the more costly duties to out-source - such as childcare - saving parents an estimated £948 a year. Grandparents also help reduce financial pressures experienced by parent(s) after the birth of a child, creating an opportunity to return to work.
This additional time spent by grandparents with their grandchildren has benefits for the wellbeing of both parties. Grandparents feel more fulfilled, and children (especially under five) have been found to consequently develop a more extensive vocabulary than their formal child-care counterparts. Grandparents can also play a significant role in the character brands their grandchildren become affiliated to through channels such as publishing, merchandise and digital.
Nostalgia is a driving factor in the character brands grandparents pass on; they are most likely to draw upon characters they perceive to have good values and standards. These tend to be character brands that they previously introduced to their own children or ones they were introduced to themselves. It is important therefore to consider grandparents when researching classic character brands with a view to modernisation for a new audience. For example, The Disney version of Winnie the Pooh was generally well received, as it was perceived to be largely in keeping with the original works of A.A Milne. Contrastingly, the new CGI adaptation of Peter Rabbit has been poorly received by grandparents due to its obvious steer away from both the key storyline and traditional look and feel of the Beatrix Potter books.
Grandparental influence doesn’t just stop at character brands; grandparents are maintaining connections with older grandchildren as a consequence of their increasing digital usage. A study by Ipsos found that 70% of grandparents are connected to the internet and have a Wi-Fi connection in their homes. Grandparents are creating Facebook and twitter profiles, as well as utilizing social networking sites such as Skype to remain connected to their grandchildren. This level of connectivity breaks previous proximity barriers providing more opportunities for grandparents to provide life lessons and maintain emotional bonds with grand children as they grow older.
So, the lesson for brands is - ignore grandparents at your peril! The practical and financial assistance they can offer and the emotional bonds they forge with their grandchildren has become paramount to family life. Children’s brands as well as researchers would also do well to consider grandparents more significantly in terms of their role in shaping children’s responses to content and character. Food for thought.