Brand-Name Genes: Are Brands Inherited?

Through the use of appropriate brands, parents can pass on to their children a responsible, healthy consumption gene

Brand-Name Genes: Are Brands Inherited?

Genetics is the science that studies how biological characteristics are passed on from parents to their offspring. It is widely accepted that many of our physical characteristics are inherited from our parents. But, what about our non-physical traits, such as our preferences, wants and tastes? Can these traits also be passed down from one generation to the next?

In our latest article, “Children’s relationships with brands: intergenerational and transgressions”, published in Marketing Intelligence and Planning, we examine the process by which child consumers select the brands they use and plan to use in the future in relation to their parents’ brand preferences. This phenomenon  is called intergenerational brand transfer. The research project was conducted together with faculty from the SP Jain School of Global Management in Sydney (Australia), using ethnographic and projective drawing analysis techniques to reach the proposed conclusions.

Child consumer behavior studies recognize three main roles of child consumers in consumption activities: the role of the buyer, the role of the influencer and the role of the future consumer. This article focuses on the third role: which brands do children plan on using in the future, once they require adult-oriented product categories?

Education in “brands”

Studies have brought to light different facets of how the family could affect brand awareness and brand associations. Brands are transferred from parents/grandparents to their children, resulting in deep emotional "connections" with brands.

Children observe and are influenced by their parents’ brand choices, their brand trust, heuristic frameworks and symbols, acting as "recipients of meaning and emotion”. In some way, parents train and educate their daughters and sons in their brand preferences.

An inheritance for the future

Child consumers have plans for their future brand relationships: they intend to use the same brands as their parents or other adult relatives, in relation to their choice of cars, computers, mobile phones, handbags, wallets and other adult-oriented product categories. To some extent, children inherit the brands they will use in the future from their parents (and other adult relatives).

Studies have found connections between children’s and parents’ brand preferences. Such intergenerational influences make it possible for parents to transfer their brand preferences and brand attachments to their children as part of a consumer socialization process. These intergenerational influences are sometimes even stronger than traditional marketing elements.

Brands for the whole family

Intergenerational brands, if properly and promptly identified by marketing professionals, can be a source of potential customers and also generate brand loyalty, if they are well managed. This finding also requires brand managers to promote content that will communicate this parent-child brand preference as brand loyalty.

This could lead to the significant development of mother-son/daughter or father-daughter/son sales promotions, special packages, and advertising incentives that could evoke father-son attachment or even brand experiences.

As the marketplace becomes increasingly complex and competitive, more information about future consumers is necessary. This study has addressed the pressing need to understand children’s future brand requirements and preferences. Finally, we propose that parents play a key role regarding the brands and products their children will buy and use in the future. Through the use of appropriate brands, parents can pass on a responsible, healthy consumption gene to their children.

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