At What Age Do Children Develop Brand Recognition and Loyalty?

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11.07.2022 research

Kiddies, like adults, live in a branded environment. Every day, every minute, children are constantly exposed to thousands of brands: whether they’re going to stores with their parents, or walking on the streets. Children have been the primary target for brands and retailers all over the world when it comes to acquiring their loyalty. Why? Their “brand IQ” and brand awareness are rising at an exponential rate every decade – in correlation with their allowance and their freedom of spending money. 

But regardless of all the attention given to children’s marketing, one important question remains: If they’re seeing thousands of brands every day, when will they start to recognize these brands and develop loyalty?. Even more important, how can you make sure to develop brand recognition and loyalty that will grow together with kids in different stages of life? 

Look no further, we’ve got the answers for you!


“Mom! I want to go shopping at this store!”

Have you ever noticed that kids often cry and complain whenever they want to go shopping at a certain store or to buy a certain item? That’s not just simple nagging, that’s the very early stage of brand affinity and loyalty. So how are they recognizing these brands and developing a preference, especially at a very young age? 

Well, much to your surprise, as children grow older, their brand information processing increases in accordance with their cognitive development (International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2016). Hence, consumer behaviors emerge at their early ages, as early as 36 months old and so does brand recognition! But before children consume, they must be able to recognize and understand. Let’s take a tour to see how it all plays out during child development: 


The first contact with brands

Starting at 6 months old, babies begin to recognize brands by forming mental images of logos and mascots, especially ones that feature cartoon characters that one is familiar with. Fast forward 1.5 to 2 years since they were born, children began to develop a deeper understanding of brand images and product meaning, paving the way to brand loyalty. 


The first steps to brand loyalty

From the age of 3 to 5, children begin to “consume”. At approximately around 36 to 42 months of age, our younglings begin to understand and realize that using/playing with specific toys and brands may communicate something about themselves to others. Hence, they’ve developed the ability to make judgments about products and their users based on associations with those brands.


Bringing brands to the schoolyard

Put simply, preschoolers have evolved into brand-conscious beings, meaning that they feel social pressure and understand that consumption of certain brands can help them excel in social situations. For example, according to an interview done by Bryner (2010), children reported that playing with a particular toy brand will make their friends like them better. Not only that, 1 out 5 children at the age of 3 starts to make specific requests to parents to shop at a particular place or buy a specific product



Your brand growing together with kids

By the time children reach first grade, it might be a little too late to start establishing a strong brand relationship with them. According to Comiteau (2020) when kids are around 10 years old, brand loyalty has already been registered: children are reported to have allegiances to specific shops, and stores and can even impact a family’s choice of groceries. This means that the clock is ticking and the earlier you start to engage with little children, the better it is for your brand. If children are already developing brand recognition and loyalty very young, how do retailers secure the win? 


Win them even before they know how to read!

One thing that made these little shoppers of tomorrow special is that they value experience and play. Kids are hooked to brands that deliver positive experiences to them: colorful packaging, playful and educational experiences from a toy. Thus, since most of them haven’t developed reading skills, children usually “judge” a brand perceptually, meaning that the shapes, forms, colors, and size of the packaging, and brand character dictate whether they liked the product or not (International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2016). 

Read Generation Alpha: Children today, shoppers tomorrow


Putting the learnings into action

All in all, in order to achieve long-lasting loyalty with our shoppers of tomorrow, it’s crucial for retailers to win over key moments of a youngster’s childhood in order to establish brand recognition and loyalty. Over 25% of brand preferences persist from childhood to adulthood, and that adult brand allegiance is heavily dictated by nostalgia and childhood associations (Lindstrom, 2003). 

Let’s get crafty and take on the younglings. Think about the power of your branded loyalty rewards with your little shoppers. Take the opportunity to connect and engage with them, while creating a buzz with children and becoming the hype brand in the schoolyard. 


Learn how loyalty campaigns can help you to connect and engage with your shoppers!

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