After a COVID-induced shift in how we consume content, streaming content is now the priority for media industry leaders. As a result, the digital-first generation, aka digital natives or Generation Alpha, is gaining influence across categories, marketplaces, and industries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the aptly titled streaming wars, where the attention and influence of Generation Alpha is the latest battleground.
Streaming stakeholders, from broadcast companies to advertisers, would do well to include this up-and-coming segment in their strategy to gain a foothold in the competitive landscape of streaming media.
Keep reading for our POV on why capturing the hearts of the digital-first generation matters.
Why They Matter
Before the onset of COVID, buying power in the household was shifting to children born after 2010. This trend accelerated as more families spent time together indoors with quarantine and isolation restrictions. The likelihood of getting adult impressions with children's content is greater than ever. These adults, it should be noted, are predominantly Millennials whose spending power was estimated at $2.5 trillion in 2020. Further, the ease of purchasing in the digital age means that Generation Alpha has real buying power. With digital payment platforms geared entirely to kids, making in-app purchases on an iPad or downloadable content in a video game is easier than ever before.
But the attractiveness of the youngest generation isn't exclusive to advertisers and retailers alone. Media companies are also vying for Generation Alpha dollars. So, while blockbuster films that go straight to streaming and the next Game of Thrones are great for publicity and headlines, “properties aimed at kids, young adults, and families” are what drives engagement, and therefore, active subscriptions.
The number of young viewers on streaming platforms is breaking records. Decreased time outside and learning from home pushes more children to stream content than ever could have been predicted. To keep up with demand, leading streaming platforms are spending to acquire old classics and create new children's content that will appeal to this growing segment of viewers.
The ability to cultivate and maintain fandom from a young age will be critical to the success of broadcast networks, advertisers, retailers, and manufacturers.
Marketing to Gen Alpha
More than their Gen Z counterparts, Generation Alpha has only known streaming, in-app purchases, and the world of social media. This access to media has its pros and cons, but it can't be denied that this generation is more connected than their predecessors. This connectedness makes the youngest generation acutely aware of their digital environment, giving them a unique perspective when interacting with brands. That is to say, Generation Alpha is likely to be highly critical of marketing that isn't personalized or aligned with its values. These values are heavily influenced by their Millennial parents.
Social responsibility and environmental issues will be top-of-mind for this generation, and brands that prioritize these issues, from consumer product goods to streaming television, will have a better chance of capturing brand loyalty early. So what does this mean for leaders in the media industry? Gen Alpha won't be reading Netflix's CSR and Sustainability report any time soon, but laying a foundation for corporate social responsibility now will pay dividends over the next decade as Alpha teens turn into young-adult consumers.
Additionally, alignment with similarly focused brands through sponsorship and strategic partnerships will further buttress loyalty from these digital natives.
But, a bulk of Generation Alpha may be too young to market to directly. The oldest in the generation just turned eleven, leaving more than half of the demographic under six years old. This makes their parents, Millennials, the gatekeepers. According to a recent Vox article, kid-focused brands are ditching the classic primary-colored branding for aesthetics that resonate with Millennial-aged consumers. Further, across industries, Millennial parents are focusing on health-conscious and better-for-you alternatives for their children. For media, this means content that educates, engages, and is a safe place for viewers.
Privacy and the Challenge of Safe Space
A significant hurdle for stakeholders is the standard architecture of digital marketing and advertising. Unlike broadcast television, streaming services use highly trackable and targeted funnels to personalize content and ads, increasing conversion and engagement. The problem? Children's privacy is at the forefront of digital privacy legislation around the globe, and the personal data for the under-13 audience is untouchable. But this doesn't mean platforms don't have access to Generation Alpha data. For example, Facebook and Youtube don't allow users younger than 13 on their platforms. The sign-up process, however, is not fool-proof. This means children's private data is mixed with adult data, often causing algorithms to push inappropriate content to underage viewers.
To protect Generation Alpha, industry leaders must also streamline Verifiable Parental Consent, stay up to date with privacy legislation, and offer a safe space for children to view and engage with content. Toxicity is an increasingly popular buzzword that brands must be familiar with. Parents and children alike are looking for non-toxic communities where they can enjoy content without concern for coming across inappropriate content.
Engagement is Key
Privacy and safety aside, engagement is key to creating brand loyalty with Generation Alpha.
While parents might be excited about an upcoming release, nothing satisfies them more than any activity to keep their children occupied – extra points if the activity helps their child learn and grow. Unengaging content will likely lead to bored children and therefore churned subscriptions.
Companies like Netflix are entering strategic partnerships with CPG companies to create content that ties in real-world playroom toys to keep engagement high. This strategy works with classic properties that hit a nostalgic chord with Millennial parents, such as Power Rangers and Fraggle Rock. It also drives a slew of original programming based on popular children's toys like Gabby's Dollhouse and Mighty Express.
While cross-promotion with consumer products is nothing new in children's programming, partnerships with child influencers certainly are. Considering Generation Alpha is more comfortable with tablets and smartphones than their grandparents, it's no surprise that influencer marketing is gaining traction for this demographic. Ryan's world turned organic unboxing videos into a multi-million-dollar content and product empire. As streaming companies vie for content, they will pay top dollar for partnerships with influencers families and children trust.
What the Future Holds
The challenge for the media industry will be to create content that attracts, engages, and nurtures children from pre-k to young adults. Creating properties with entry points at earlier ages will provide an opportunity to keep Generation Alpha's attention and significantly increase their lifetime customer value. Balancing privacy and a safe community is undoubtedly part of the solution. But industry leaders who find ways to actively engage away from the viewscreen, through playroom toys or child influencers, will gain an edge in this uber-competitive marketplace.
Finally, as kids grow older and their buying power increases, media companies will need to exhibit a commitment to ethics and sustainability that will be the core of Generation Alpha's identity. Excelling on these three fronts will help media companies build trust and loyalty early with what will be the largest generation in history.