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Bitefile Wish Lists

Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year for both marketers and researchers. Traditionally, researchers of young people's consumer behavior are fascinated by the holiday season. We have collected the research on children's gift wishes and bring it to you in bite-size portions.From December 1st until Christmas a Bitescience Research Update was revealed every two days. 

We found 11 studies about children’s Christmas gift requests. Although these studies took place all over the globe (North America, South America, Australia, and Europe), they show very similar patterns. You can use these scientific insights in the next holiday season!

Children’s Christmas Wishes 

  • Children’s Christmas wish lists can be worth up to hundreds of dollars. 
  • Children make lists, letters, drawings, and collages to express their wishes. 
  • Collages and simple lists have the most requests, brand names, and are the costliest. Children know exactly what toys from which brands they want for Christmas. 
  • To make sure Santa understands their wishes well, letters to Santa are extensively written and contain lots of details about the specific products children want to have. 
  • The “Christmas spirit” is not necessarily good for sales. Although kids who are “in the spirit” ask for more presents, these also tend to be less expensive. 

The Impact of Advertising

  • Christmas commercials are a source of inspiration for children’s wish lists; almost half of the children ask for at least one item that was advertised in the pre-Christmas period.
  • Children who watch television frequently ask Father Christmas for more toys seen in commercials than children who watch television less frequently.
  • Children who favor commercial TV channels request more advertised toys than children who favor non-commercial channels.
  • Heavily advertised products prevail on children’s wish lists. 
  • All this suggests that television advertising is quite successful in influencing the Christmas wish lists. 

Age and Gender

  • Children’s age and gender are both important factors for understanding their wish lists.
  • For school-aged children, advertising affects the amount of product requests and the specific brands requested. For preschoolers, advertising only affects the number of requests, probably because these young children have difficulty remembering and reproducing brand names.
  • Gender-typical toys prevail on children’s wish lists.
  • Children of different age and sex have very distinctive product preferences. Therefore, advertising does not influence the types of products requested, but rather the specific brands requested.
  • Preschoolers and 7-8-year olds prefer toys and games, 9-10-year-olds prefer functional products (clothes, school stationary), and 10-11-year olds prefer products with a social function (CDs, pop idol merchandising). 
  • Some studies find that boys make more requests for advertised brands, while other studies find girls request more advertised brands. It appears that this mostly depends on the types of products advertised in the holiday season: whether more boys’ or girls’ products were advertised that year in that country.

Parents' Christmas Decisions

  • Never underestimate the power of the parent when marketing to kids, even when it’s Christmas time.
  • Children request gifts on their wish lists (and often ask for brands), but parents give those they think are most appropriate. This is often an alternative to the brand requested.
  • Most parents do not think it’s necessary to buy branded toys for Christmas for their children. They think giving specific products, like dolls, clothes or bikes, is more important than giving certain brands.
  • To change parents’ thoughts about branded toys, it could be interesting for brands to target their commercials at both parents and children instead of only targeting at children. 

Parent-Child Communication

  • Most parents are open for the Christmas requests of their children and allow them to learn from their choices.
  • In order to help children making the right requests, parents tend to ask them about the suitability or appropriateness of the gift.
  • Parents not often reject gift requests, or limit them to certain types of products or brands, but they do still make the final decision.
  • Fathers tend to limit requests more often than mothers.

Things to Consider When Targeting Parents for Christmas

  • Parents give children Christmas gifts for reasons of surprise, suspense, sacrifice, and sharing;
  • They make the purchase decision based on functional, symbolic, and emotional elements;
  • Parents consider Christmas gifts in terms of product category rather than brand name. They prefer traditional Christmas gifts such as teddy bears, dolls, trains, and soldiers.
  • Aside from their children’s wish lists, parents use store catalogues for inspiration;
  • Don’t overdo it. Parents don’t like the commercial side of Christmas (when it comes to their kids, at least).

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