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Kids Influence Back-to-School Buys


As schools open their doors and marketers attempt to reach children and parents, a recent study considers children's products: the items parents are most likely to buy and the best channels to use to reach kids.

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Most parents (84%) say their children influence their purchasing decisions, according to a July 2009 Octagon First Call survey:


In turn, celebrity or character endorsements influence children's preferences, say most parents of children across all age groups:

Additional findings:

  • Moms constitute 97% of back-to-school purchasers.
  • Grade school children (age 5-11) respond the most positively to celebrity or character endorsed back-to-school products.
  • Parent of grade school children say Miley Cyrus, SpongeBob, and the Jonas Brothers are the three most popular celebrity/character back-to-school endorsees.
  • Parents want celebrities to endorse healthy lifestyle decisions.


Asked what back-to-school items they planned to buy, parents responded as follows:

  • Clothing (85.7%)
  • School supplies (82.9%)
  • Backpack (59.4%)
  • Lunch box (39.4%)

Educational software, after-school entertainment such as iPods and video games will be purchased at a lesser rate during this season and it would be better to allocate the marketing budget to instead target the upcoming holiday season, First Call said.

Parents were also asked: "What types of products would you like to have celebrities endorse in the upcoming back-to-school season?" Their answers, broken out by child age group:

  • Pre-K: Health (healthy foods, healthy snacks, fruits & veggies), supplies (lunchboxes, backpacks), apparel (footwear), school programs (education tools & resources, exercise programs, reading programs).
  • Grade School: Health (healthy foods, fruits & veggies, healthy snacks, healthy attitudes), supplies (folders, lunchboxes, backpacks, books), school programs (reading programs, exercise programs, education tools & resources), apparel (footwear).
  • Middle School: Health (healthy foods, healthy snacks, healthy habits), supplies (binders, folders, notebooks), school programs (reading programs).
  • High School: Health (healthy foods, healthy habits/foods), supplies (backpacks, notebooks, mugs), apparel (clothes, collared shirts).
  • College: Health (healthy food, healthy habits/exercise), supplies (backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks).

Health is the big trend—with demand for healthy foods, healthy snacks, healthy attitudes, exercise or healthy habits, notes First Call.


Close to 71% of parents say TV is the most popular medium for their child to find out about back-to-school offerings; 92% of parents of children in middle school say so.

Pre-K students on the other hand, tend to respond better to TV when it's coupled with another tactic, such as packaging, according to parents.

The top 5 channels with the highest rating averages are as follows:

  1. Television
  2. Packaging
  3. Friends/peers
  4. Online
  5. Point of sale

Asked "How does your child stay up to date with their favorite celebrity/character?" parents identify more than one channel. The results, in order:

  1. Television
  2. Friends
  3. Network
  4. Websites
  5. Magazines
  6. DVDs

The following table shows which age group each medium resonates most with, according to parents:

Parents say their college and high school students clearly prefer the Internet when catching up on celeb gossip, whereas their youngest kids (Pre-K) tend to stick to DVDs.

About the research: In July 2009, Octagon First Call polled 200 parents with school-age children regarding the use of celebrities and licensed characters for back-to-school purchases and intent.

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