While their moms and dads are connecting via MySpace and Facebook, a new crop of kiddies as young as age 4 are watching YouTube and playing Webkinz, an online game that lets kids chat with each other. This under-11 set has been using technology since their tiny fingers could click a mouse.
Research firm Iconoculture has dubbed them "Generation We," and marketers like Mike D'Abramo, director of research and strategy for marketing firm Youthography, say these kids are the youngest subset of a group called Born Digital--young people who have never known a world without the internet.
"They're definitely influenced by what they see online," says Laura Johnson, 32, co-founder with her brother, Jeff Johnson, and Ryan Brown, both 27, of XYZ Boutique, a clothing boutique in Indialantic, Florida. "They have access to many more resources to see different styles and [learn about] different cultures." Her store's hip, young styles cater to the Gen We set--and their very definite views about clothing.
D'Abramo emphasizes the need to be aware of how these kids are influencing what adults buy--and buy for them. They want more technology integrated into even the simplest games, he says, like Legos with battery-operated parts. Add-ons represent huge marketing opportunities for entrepreneurs. "Now it's not just the money for an iPod; it's paying for the accessories and iTunes," he says.
The good news is that reaching these kids is easier than ever. Many have e-mail accounts, so sending age-appropriate e-mails (that follow youth marketing laws) works. D'Abramo says that banner advertising and even youth-skewed TV shows are good options, too. He says the key is to clearly show them why what you're selling is a must-have, since jaded kids can be a tough audience.