Impact Of Agents Of Socialization On Pester Power Education Essay

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Introduction

In this ever changing world, there is an increasing trend in the recognition of pester power of children by the marketers. Pester power is basically the influencing power of the children which they exercise in their routine life to get what they want and indirectly affect the buying decision of their parents. The basic reason behind the acknowledgement of pester power is that exposure of the children is growing over time as they are getting more social so dictating buying decisions of their parents. Thus pester power will be the main focus of my dissertation and the researcher will attempt to determine various factors of socialization that are gradually playing their role in strengthening this kid-influence on parents purchase of products.

Background

The term "Pester Power" first originated in US in late 1970's, described as the power children had, by repeated nagging, of influencing their parents to buy advertised or fashionable items. Nicholls and Cullen (2004) studied this parent-child relationship which results in pester power and developed a matrix for it which shows that while a family in making a buying decision parents and child both have to make a tradeoff between desire of control over decision and self realization of resulting purchase. Figure below is the matrix developed by Nicholls and Cullen (2004) it depicts that when children has high self realization and parents have high desire for control their interaction results in pester power of children.

Source: Nicholls, A. J., & Cullen, P. (2004). The child-parent purchase relationship: 'pester power', human rights and retail ethics. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services

Problem discussion

Children has an increased access to pocket money and a bigger say in purchase decisions is a result of children getting more information from various sources, being more social and demanding as well. This increase in population of youngsters and their influencing power determines a large potential customer base for marketers.

Objectives and research question

Based upon above background of study and problem discussion, purpose or main objective of this study is to provide a better understanding of how the agents of socialization of children make them influence their parents' purchase decision. In order to conduct this research, research questions are

Primary Research question

RQ: Do the agents of socialization have an impact on pester power of children?

Subsidiary Research questions

RQ2: Does parents/peer pressure has an impact on pester power?

RQ3: Do advertisements and TV programs have an impact on pester power?

Literature Review

Kids represent an important market segment to marketers because kids have their own buying behavior. More importantly, kids could monitor the buying decisions of their adult parents because they are the adults of future. Today most of the advertisers spend more on TV advertisements having children content to attract more children which are going to change the behavior of their parents. There are different variables involved in pester power effectiveness. That is what McNeal and Yeh, (1997) has also stated that due to increase in awareness of children market potential had increased in three ways that the children were spending money they had, that is essentially their pocket money, to satisfy their own needs and wants. Secondly, they influenced their parents spending and finally they eventually would become a loyal customer base for the companies in the long run.

Interaction with parents is the first thing that influences children buying behaviors. The parents teach their children the buying behavior. Same proposition was given by Ward et al (1977) that primary socialization agents for children were parents and children behavior in adulthood was dominated by their parental influence. If there is a direct and clear communication between the children and their parents then children could be easily influenced by their parents. Mostly the pester power works if there is more emotional engagement between the parents and their children. Children learn from their parents the way in which they live, buy and eat. Moore and Moschis (1981) and Mascarenhas and Higby (1993) stated that the most instrumental among social entities were parents from which children learnt consumer behavior. Another researcher Moschis (1985) has concluded that interaction of children with all other entities was majorly influenced by their parents, when they were in direct or indirect contact with each other. Along with this he also postulated that, because of the nature of parent-child relationship, effects of other agents of socialization like peer groups and mass media were modified to a large extent.

Peer Pressure is the second component of the research question, which influences children buying behaviors. Children spent a lot of their time in certain peer groups such as at school, play places or street friends belonging to different families. A child learns a lot from other children. The extent to which these gatherings influence varies from situation to situation. For example, a child can even make a decision to buy his school bag by looking at other children. Same element of influence was studied by many researchers including Parsons et al., (1953), David and Roseboroug (1955), Moschis and Moore (1981) has described the impact of peer pressure in two ways, expressive consumption and effective consumption. By expressive consumption they mean the social motivations and the materialistic values that are associated with the purchases while on the other hand, purchase styles and modes of consumptions were categorized as effective consumption influence. This study comes in line with my study that social motivation and the purchase patterns of both the parents and peers influence children. This influence may or may not be productive as Bachmann, et al (1993) stated that consumption learning from peers affected child consumer socialization directly or indirectly. Another research, stated earlier, by Ward (1974) has explained the relationship of parental influence and peer pressure with age that as age increases parental influence is over shadowed by peer pressure

Impact of advertisements content and TV programs on children has gained significant importance by researchers and marketers. Berns (2004) has given a reason for the fact that children are now being used as a marketing tool is their cognitive immaturity, he argued on this point by saying that children were more likely to believe that the images or characters they see on TV were real. Some of ways in which this agent of socialization influences the pester power of children are:

Making children desire things which their parents do not want to purchase by showing attractive contents in advertisements.

Encouraging children to influence or advocate the buying behavior of their parents

Presenting children as heroes in a particular situation such as showing a scene in which other children are in danger and one child adopts the rule of savior etc.

Making Children feel inferior by showing them that if they will not buy a particular product they are not good but bad.

According to O'Guinn and Shrum (1997),a advertising and programming content are the two channels of communication which inform children and young people about products and encourage them to purchase. Another point that O' Guinn and Shrum (1997) has stated in their findings is that consumer behavior was learned by children more easily if they were targeted with persuasion shown in commercials and various TV programs. Expansion in media messages and continuous changes in media environment are two key contributors for increasing the level of advertisement subjected towards children.

Store Visits and Retailing environments also influence children buying behavior as Shim, et al (1995) proposed that children became more conscious about the information regarding products such as price and brands the more often parent took their children for the shopping. Keeping this in view marketer induce sales by adding some incentives for children to influence their parents to buy a product. For example, a fast food restaurant usually adds play place along with the dining hall or some retailer give away toys, snacks, sweets as gift with the products purchased. Although products are for adults but retailers make children pester their parents to buy that product. The attractive display of product also works in inducing this power more efficiently; these kinds of purchases made by parents under the influence of children are usually impulse purchases. According to research conducted by Schulman and Clancy (1992) on the most admired after school activities among the children depicts that watching TV got the highest attractive scores while second on the list was shopping which shows that in either of the two cases our research questions are being supported that these agents of socializations are impacting children behavior to a large extent.

Cartoon character and Celebrities endorsement also has some bearing on children buying behavior. A recent study conducted by Dotson and Hyatt (2005) states that association of brands with certain popular sports, music and stars had increase the level of influence on children. Almost all children watch cartoon programs and other children oriented TV programs such as Quiz shows, Sports Shows etc. By introducing heroic characters like super-man, spider-man and various celebrities in advertisement make children buy that product because of emotional attachment of children with these things.

Product category and stage of decision making process are being varied by children as the amount of influence they exert and product they prefer. For some product categories they influence purchase made by the parents and for some other products they are active initiators, information seekers, and buyers. Children influence is different for different products, product sub division, nature of socialization of children and they prefer product what they are attracted towards. Beside of the goods which are for direct consumption, children shows their influence in buying of goods for their family as their parents are less involved in the goods are preferred by them and preference increases in case of less expensive and the products for their own use. (Belch, 2004)

Today, most of the marketers are targeting kids because of the change in demographics and psychographics of children population. The first learning point for the children about "Where to buy" is from family. The family characteristics such as family environment and parental lifestyle enhances the impact of the role of children in the different stages of taking buying decisions, as stated by Belch (2004) as well. Most of the children, when they go out with their parents on shopping, learn where a particular product or service is available and how they can reach them. The second source of children learning about where to buy comes from peer or social group they usually spend their time. As Belch (2004) stated that cultural values influence consumption related behaviors of children. The third source of children learning about where to buy comes from different advertisements and TV programs. There is big problem for children and their parents as viewers because young children are easily attracted towards the content of advertisements and promotions.

Theoretical Framework

The independent variable in this study is agents of socialization and the dependent variable is pester power of children.

Agents of socialization

Pester power

Independent variable

Dependent Variable

Operationalization

In order to quantify independent variable, agents of socialization, the researcher has identified two indicators based upon the findings of literature review which are operationalized as under:

Parent/Peer pressure: How the parents buying behavior and patterns are learned by the children because they are in constant contact with them and to what extent the interaction of children with their peer transform their preferences for products?

Advertisements / TV programs: How much attention children pay to what they see on television, the retail environment impact children in nagging for a particular product and to what extent children get inclined towards a cartoon character or even children in a commercial?

In order to quantify the dependent variable, pester power the researcher has identified three indicators which are operationalized as follows:

Product preferences: How much differences in preference of children make them influence their parents purchase decision?

Where to buy: How do children know from where they can get their desired product?

How to buy: Do they know the tactic of buying the product, by nagging?

Hypothesis

The hypotheses developed for conducting the research are:

H1: There is a relationship between agents of socialization and pester power

Null Hypothesis: There is no relationship between agents of socialization and pester power

Alternative hypothesis: There is a positive relationship between agents of socialization and pester power.

Objectives of the Research Study

Several factors such as interaction with parents, interaction with peers, shopping experiences and advertisement (Normal + Celebrity endorsement) has increased the nagging behavior of children. The more increase in interactions of a child with all these factors; it gives rise to pester power or the power of nagging in the child. For measuring pester power, the researcher has prepared a questionnaire (See Appendix) for measuring the impact of these two variables (parent/peer pressure and advertising) on pester power in children. The objective of this study is to measure "the nature of relationship that exists between parent/peer pressure, advertising and pester power". Another objective is to find out if only these variables are there to boost up the pester power or there is also something else which has not yet been discovered in the previous research conducted (literature review) on pester power.

Due to limited time and money constraints, it is not possible to get accurate and pure results, but the researcher will try his best to get the better results from limited resources. The finding of this study will also be helpful in the professional career of researcher being a business student. There is dramatic increase in the population of youngsters. Being an entrepreneur or marketer, this study will help the researcher to devise an efficient marketing communication strategy in his professional career for example this part of population can be targeted in marketing campaigns because of their larger proportion in the total population and maximum net marketing contribution can be obtained out of it.

Secondly, this study will also be beneficial to the parents. The reason is, due to increase in population of youngsters, the marketers are targeting them in their marketing communications. This trend has positive as well as negative effects. Some marketers are using unethical tactics to market their product which is socially unacceptable. This study will help the parents to efficiently control the exposure of children to advertising and parent/peer pressure to minimize pester power and its negative effects.

Research Methodology

Design

This study will be a questionnaire study. In questionnaire study, the respondents will be given a questionnaire and they will have to select from only available options. It is not a laboratory experiment where the environment of respondents can be controlled. It is a social research and the respondents are humans. The environment or context of this research cannot be controlled. The researcher will conduct questionnaire surveys. Questionnaire surveys are appropriate because these surveys allow quantification of data and thus quantitative evidences will be used to justify the results from research study. Questionnaire Surveys will help to gain required responses which can be further converted in quantitative terms for research.

Subjects

To test above mentioned hypothesis, the researcher will need to find data about agents of socialization and level of pester power. This data will be collected from parents having kids entering a shopping mall. The researcher will be using non-probability sampling method. A sample size of 100 parents entering shopping malls will be taken. Large shopping malls will be targeted for carrying out this research study. Convenience sampling method will be used for this research study.

Instruments

Instrument for carrying out research is already discussed above which is questionnaire surveys (quantitative research) for getting deep insights of the research problem. The researcher chose questionnaire surveys to get desired responses because quantification of data was desired. Moreover, the subjects find it easy to select an answer from given responses and therefore the response rate of questionnaire surveys are high. An interviewer completed questionnaire of close-ended statements will be used. Each questionnaire is expected to be completed within 10 minutes. So, questionnaire surveys are more flexible than any other instruments for research. Therefore, the above instruments for research study are reliable. Similarly statistical tests like z-test and t-test will be used to measure the reliability of measures.

Context

The research will be applied to the retail industry of United Kingdom (UK) by visiting the retail chains, retail stores and shopping malls. The research will be conducted from parents visiting the retail stores, retail chains and shopping malls of UK retail industry. Only those parents will be interviewed who will have the children under the age of 10-20 years old.

Results

Results obtained from the research study will be tested and validated by statistical measures using Microsoft Excel and SPSS. A z-test and t-test will be used to test significance among variables. Moreover, ANOVA will also be used to test significance of variables. Similarly, results obtained from focus groups and in-depth interviews will be tested qualitatively by recording video of these events.

Research Paradigm

This study "Impact of agents of socialization on pester power" is a quantitative, deductive and correlation study. The study is quantitative because it involves collection and analysis of numerical data as questionnaires responses can be measured on different scales and could be coded. The study is deductive because hypotheses is tested as "There is a positive relationship between agents of socialization and pester power". The researcher arrived at the above hypothesis from the literature review. Now, the researcher already has a statement in the form of hypothesis, and this statement would be tested by collection of data and analysis which is a deductive approach. Finally this study is correlation study because a relationship is being measured between two different kinds of independent variables and dependent variable. In this study, agents of socialization are independent variables and pester power is dependent variable.

Ethical Concerns

The participants of the research study will be involved in the research with their informed consent by explaining them the purpose of the research study. The participants of the research study will be at minimal risk with no physical harm. A briefing would be given to respondents about the purpose of study by explaining the true nature of our study in order to have their informed consent. The respondents will be given a free choice to opt for giving information and responding to the questionnaire. The element of confidentiality and privacy will be of major concern during this study. The researcher will ensure confidentiality by using dummy data.

Limitations

It is a single man's effort and therefore some limitations will also be associated with the project and these limitations would be constraints of time and cost. In case of questionnaires surveys, participant in hurry or thinking about something else may choose a wrong response. Moreover, fatigue, anger and hunger may alter the interpretations of surveys. There could be human errors in the analysis and presentation of results.

Conclusion

The prime users of the study conducted will be the marketers who have to develop their advertising campaign. This point is also very important for parents as well, they try to reduce this pester power in their children, because it bring about negative changes in them, this is the reason that many countries like Canada have banned such advertisements that enhances pester power in children.

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