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As marketeers, we know that the requirements of modern living, access to information and the rise of social media have changed the way that we engage with consumers. More than ever, brands need to understand their audience and how and when they want to be reached. This is especially true for brands looking to engage with families and young people.

We talked to Emma Worrollo, expert on all things families and Gen Z and founder of The Pineapple Lounge to get her insight on these challenging target markets.

How do you think modern life has impacted on the way that families seek and consume advertising/brands?

Emma: Modern families have a flattened hierarchy - there is more of a sense of team versus a former top down structure. This means decision making is more collective, the opinions of children matter, and more decisions are made based on the collective. Children can influence everything from car choice, to holiday destination to the washing-up liquid.

Traditional advertising is screened out much more, kids’ TV used to be the place to reach parents and kids but has become less powerful in the wake of on demand platforms and services. Family advertising with the biggest impact tends to now be via YouTube, cinema and social.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing companies looking to market to the future generation of consumers?

Emma: Looking at Gen Z (aged around 8 – early 20s), they have high expectations and are well researched. They have been born into a world of slick tech and high-level innovation and connectivity, which means their tolerance for low quality and poor design is very low. Their filter is exceptionally efficient and is often mistaken by brands as a lack of concentration or patience. It is this sharp filter that already is the nemesis of brands as they must bypass it with something relevant, engaging that clearly demonstrates a benefit to them, within seconds.

Gen Z also seek purpose driven brands, this is not to be confused with doing a bit of CSR, but being able to answer the question: “why does your business exist in the world?”. If the answer is only profit, in the future, that’s simply not going to cut it.

Who is doing a great job at youth/family marketing?



LUSH is really tapping into Gen Z’s need to explore their senses. In an increasingly digital world, it offers an experiential sensory environment and is supported by a great digital presence.

Instagram speaks to Gen Z’s visual communication needs. They can curate their own personal space building a digital identity that they are proud to share with the world. Here they can also ‘find their tribe’ connecting with those who share similar values and tastes.

Netflix is smashing it with youth right now. The middle ‘coming of age’ group within the youth sector is often underserved in the entertainment world with tweens having to straddle the kids and adult world. Netflix are not ignoring this group and are tapping into their love of fandom and supporting shows like Riverdale, Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why with hype-building social campaigns.


McDonald’s have a made a shift from targeting kids and parents separately to engaging the whole family in a 360 approach. The Happy Meal is more inclusive to parents with shared licenses bought in like Hasbro Games. Promotions such as Happy Readers where kids can buy a book for £1, and ‘free fruit Friday’ appeal more to parents’ needs.

Odeon has managed to ride out the high prices associated with the cinema by introducing more family targeted initiatives. From the popcorn / snack / drink combo specifically designed in kids’ sizes, to bean bag viewing rooms, character visits and Saturday morning screenings of older movies for cheaper tickets, there are a lot more drivers to keep families coming back to the movie theatre.

Smiggle is an interesting brand to look at as it bucks all the declining retail and toy trends as its growth continues globally. Though the in-store experience and the product prices are not wholly parent appealing (to say the least!), the brand does seem permissible, and perhaps it’s association with stationary / creativity taps into parents’ desire to see their kids passionate about tangible play as well as digital experiences, especially as they age up and out of toys. Smiggle seems to have nailed the gifting / treating space as visiting the store is an experience in itself and products purchased there carry high social currency for primary school kids.

What’s the biggest opportunity for companies looking to talk to/market to families?

Emma: Experiential is really key – I describe modern parents as practising ‘treasure hunt parenting’. This means they are on a journey to collect shared memories. They want the content, the experience and the moments to reflect back on and also to share online. They are life-loggers judged more by where they go and what they do versus what they buy and what they own. Having an engaging digital comms strategy is important to remain relevant and top of mind, but you cannot underestimate the tangible brand experience and having an experience with it - the two together are the most potent.

What would you say to brands/companies wanting to use social media to reach young people?

Emma: This is their space, they have a sense of ownership over it and feel like they’ve been part of the uprising of some of these platforms. That means, tread carefully, their radar for overly manufactured, try hard or misunderstanding of the space is razor sharp, and they have no issue calling you out for it. Imagine you’re walking into a playground full of kids playing and having fun, think about how you’re going to join in, how you might add to or how might you disrupt the fun and get on their nerves - that’s always a good wake-up call. If you wouldn’t do it/say it to them in real life, then don’t do it on social.

If you could give a company one piece of advice when thinking about how to engage with the modern family what would you say?

Emma: I think family marketing is still very outdated. We have come some way forward to shatter the perfect myth of parenting and break down stereotypes but not far enough. It’s important to remember that families aren’t only defined by their status as a ‘family’. Beneath that label are real people who identify just as much as being as an individual, a woman, a man, as they do a parent. Treat them as humans with stories to tell, passions to tap into and interests outside of the home and parenting. A good place to start is removing language from within your business like ‘gate-keeper’, ‘stay at home mum’, ‘primary decision maker’, as these will take you further away from truly engaging with real people.

If you would like to talk to us about any of the topics mentioned in this article then do get in touch.