The moment I became an aunt for the first time was the most meaningful and fulfilling time of my life. My "auntuition," as I now call it, kicked in the moment I saw my newborn nephew and I made a silent vow to do everything in my power to love and cherish that child. The bond was immediate, the love eternal.
But as much as I felt this milestone had changed everything for me, no one else beyond my closest friends and family seemed to notice. No one spoke to me as an aunt, my most cherished role, not even brand marketers when I needed to know what children wanted. I remember walking into a giant toy store wanting nothing more than to buy the world for a special 1-year-old on his birthday, and realizing as soon as I walked in the door that I had little idea what of he'd need or want. The childless Auntie is expected to wield her cool aunt magic on her darling nieces and nephews, but while moms and dads have a plethora of tools, guides, resources and communities, we had nothing.
That's why, in 2008, I launched Savvy Auntie®, the multi-platform lifestyle brand for cool aunts, great-aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids, to support aunts' needs and give them a voice. Savvy Auntie, a celebration of modern aunthood, has developed into an active, proud tribe, now even geared up with an annual Auntie's Day® on the fourth Sunday in July so aunts can be recognized and celebrated for all that they do.
The Power of the PANK®
And now, four years later, my company has reached its next milestone. Savvy Auntie has partnered with Weber Shandwick and KRC Research, and together, we released a groundbreaking new study this week entitled: The Power of the PANK: Engaging New Digital Influencers. PANK -- or Professional Aunt No Kids -- is the term I coined for this powerful niche of women when I founded my company. The national study was able to more deeply quantify and qualify this segment, revealing that childless aunts are a sizeable segment of younger women with disposable income, dynamic influence and a digitally-connected lifestyle who are extraordinarily generous with the children in their lives, those children's parents and our communities at large.
Our findings showed that nearly 1-in-5 (19%) American women ages 18+ are PANKs, women who self-identify as childless or childfree and having a bond with at least one child in their life by relation or by friendship. This adds up to 23 million American women, a sizeable market when compared with the LGBT demographic (16 million) and the African-American demographic (28 million). And our findings were not only powerful in terms of the scope of our buying power, but perhaps more so, the size of our hearts.
Secondary Caregivers but Primary Gift Givers
PANKs spend $387 on average per child in their life, per year. And more than three-quarters of us (76%) spend $500 or more per child, annually. At a baseline of one child per PANK, that's $9 billion dollars of annual spend on kids alone. And we don't solely offer gifts, although we certainly enjoy putting a smile on the faces of our nieces and nephews. More than one-third (34%) of PANKs contribute to a child's education.
Our influence with children runs deep. Nieces, nephews, godchildren and all the special children in our lives look up to their Savvy Aunties. Nearly 7 in 10 PANKs (68%) report to be a role model for the kids in their lives and more than one-third of PANKs (35%) offer kids things that their parents cannot, which may be financial, emotional, friendship or some other type of support. In fact, many have given gifts to parents to help them provide for their kids (45%).
With these findings, it wasn't surprising to also learn that our giving doesn't stop in their homes. PANKs are more likely than all women to do community service, charity work or volunteer. And we are significantly more likely than overall women to enjoy social activities -- hanging out with friends, dating, using social networks and participating in sports. Most importantly, PANKs are just as satisfied with their lives as women in general (61% vs. 62%, respectively).
So here we are -- a bighearted, nurturing group of influential women who often go unnoticed for what we contribute to the American Family Village. And we feel it. Our findings show that exactly half of all PANKs believe that society overlooks women who don't have children. And marketers are missing out on this untapped niche of abundantly generous women, too. Imagine if we knew what the "cool toys" were before we went shopping for our nephews' holiday gifts -- or before they told us what they wanted. Imagine if financial services companies reached out to us to help us save for our nieces' coaches, tutors and college funds. Imagine if community service organizations brought programs to share with our godchildren to our attention. Imagine if ads for women didn't speak only to "moms."
Imagine if when talked about family in America, aunts were a central, involved part of the discussion. Everyone would benefit.
It's time for aunts to rise up and be counted and it's time for society to welcome us in and acknowledge our powerful, positive influence. Aunts are part of The New Normal in America. We are The New Normal in America.
And we're 23 million, $9 billion in giving to children, strong. Can you hear us now?
For more on Savvy Auntie visit SavvyAuntie.com.
For the list of 2012 Savvy Auntie Coolest Toy Award Winners, visit SavvyAuntie.com/ToyAwards
The 5th Annual Auntie's Day will take place on July 28, 2013
Follow Melanie Notkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/savvyauntie