Youth Brand Affinity

of one

Development of Brand Recognition and Affinity in Youth

Scientific studies appear to agree that brand recognition and affinity begins to develop when children are between the ages of two and three, and increases as children age. The level at which brand recognition and affinity occurs appears to be correlated to the child's ability to effectively process and evaluate information, which also increases as children age.

Between the ages of two and three, children develop brand recognition and affinity more so on the visual level, where they are able to recognize brand logos/mascots and the products associated with them, however at this early stage they have difficulty recalling other aspects of the brand, such as the brand's name. The visual elements that children perceive enable them to develop emotional connections with brands, specifically where mascot or media character marketing is being implemented, because children view these characters as their personal friends.

Environmental factors also impact the age at which an individual child begins to develop brand recognition and affinity. Specifically, exposure to media and varying parental communications play a role in a child's overall ability to recognize and recall a brand.

Below, you will find an outline of each of the studies/examples we collected along with an in depth analysis of each. To locate these studies, we utilized reliable academic and scientific research databases.


Study published by: Wiley Online Library.
Date: June 2016
Overview of the study:
This study examined a total of 66 children between the ages of three and five-years-old. Examiners conducted individual interviews of the children in order to gauge their level of brand awareness. "In line with this purpose, the brand logo, brand character and 41 flashcards containing some photos belonging to the product packaging of the brand were presented to the children." For each card, the children were asked to identify both the brand name and a corresponding product.
When brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing in children:
According to this study, brand awareness in children begins "as early as 3-years-old," but is less developed compared to slightly older children (i.e. the five-year-old group studied). We assume this indicates that brand recognition and affinity development increases significantly between ages three and five.
How and why it develops at this age:
This study concludes that children in the three-year-old group were able to accurately remember "both the brand and the product after seeing the brand's logo, packaging and character." However, the younger the children were, the more difficulty they had in remembering the brand's name (i.e. they remembered the visuals associated with the brand, but were less likely to remember the brand's name). Despite this, they were able to accurately remember which product was associated with the brand. Overall, the study found that "brand awareness showed an increase in direct proportion to age."


Study published by: ResearchGate
Date Published: July 2005 (but is included here, because it is a larger and more in depth study that echos the sentiments of the more recently published study shown in Example #1, thereby giving it additional support).
Overview of the Study:
This study looked at the development of brand awareness in young children and how that development was impacted by the "influence of environmental factors," such as friends, family, and media. This study examined 196 children between the ages of two and eight-years-old. The children were first shown a series of 12 brand logos, and were then asked to "mention the brand name (brand recall), and to choose the right brand from a number of available visual options (brand recognition)."
When brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing in children:
This study found that children between the ages of two and three could only recall the name of one out of 12 brands presented, however they were able to visually recognize eight out of 12 brands presented.
How and why it develops at this age:
This study did not provide a deep dive of how brand recognition develops at this age, but did state that the results of the study "showed that exposure to television was significantly related to the brand awareness of even the youngest children."


Date published: March 2016
Overview of the study:
Rather than a scientific study, this example is a research article that talks about how the use of media characters and brand mascots in food advertisements impact children and their food choices.
When brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing in children:
This article suggests that brand recognition and affinity starts at a young age, and that the risk of being influenced by a brand increases as children get older, reaching a peak in the 12-14 age range.
How and why it develops at this age:
This research suggests that the media characters and brand mascots used to market food and beverage products to children "represent a broad range of human or fictional kid-friendly animals or animated objects," which children are first exposed to through via "television (TV), movies, the Internet, food packaging, merchandising, as well as their parents and peers."

Children in the younger demographic are vulnerable to this type of marketing, because they are unable to effectively distinguish "between advertising information and factual information," while also developing emotional bonds with the mascots and characters (i.e. young children view them as personal friends). The paper states that "these relationships are based on the attractiveness of the
brand mascots and media characters, and they can influence children’s food choices and diet."

The paper also makes note that children face an increased risk of being influenced by "unhealthy food and beverage marketing" as they age, because they are more independent, use media more often, and have a higher rate of consumption. Since this level of influence has been found to be highest in the 12-14 age groups, an expert panel in 2015 "recommended that companies revise the current definition of child-directed marketing to include any form of marketing that targets children ages 14 and younger (as opposed to the current cutoff of age 12)."


Date Published: November 2016
Overview of Study:
This study examined the "factors influencing young children’s (aged three to five years) understanding of brand symbolism." The study relied on the use of multiple hierarchical regression in order to analyze factors that impact a preschool child's brand symbolism development. Examiners interviewed 56 child-parent sets.
When brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing in children:
"The study demonstrates that the tendency to infer symbolic user attributes and non-product-related associations with brands starts as early as two years, and increases with age throughout the preschool years."
How and why it develops at this age:
This study indicates that a preschool child's age is strongly related to the way they understand the symbolism of a brand. This development hinges on various environmental factors, including "media exposure and styles of parental socialization," specifically exposure to television and the communication style of the parent.

Overall, it was found that "children exposed to more television and less critical parental consumer socialization strategies are more likely to prefer branded products, believe that brands are better quality and that they make people happy and popular."


Date published: May 2016
Overview of the study:
This study looked at targeted social media advertising and "the effects of profile targeting on children's brand responses (i.e., brand attitude and purchase intention)." Examiners tested the targeting of a product and the targeting of an aesthetic form, such as color and measured the number of likes "perceived personal relevance of the advertisement, and recognizing the targeting aspect of the advertisement (targeting recognition)."
When brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing in children:
This was not directly discussed in this study, because this study was conducted on 231 children between ages 9 and 12. Although this is slightly above the age range you are interested in, we felt this study might still be of interest to you, given that recent studies show that 59% of children use social networking sites before the age of 10. Based on this, we assume this study can help shed light on how social media affects the brand affinity/recognition of children under 10 and/or demonstrate the results of that overall childhood development.
Results of this study:
This study found that age-targeted product advertising "leads to more positive brand attitudes and purchase intentions." Overall, the study concluded that "unlike adults, children do not process profile targeting on an elaborate critical level."

We feel these findings are interesting when compared to the results of the research in Example #3, which shows that young children are susceptible to mascot/media character marketing because they are unable to properly process the difference between an advertising message and factual information. Based on this, we assume that the development of brand recognition and affinity is likely directly correlated to the development of a child's ability to process and evaluate information, which these studies have shown increases as a child ages.


In closing, we have provided several scientific examples which outline the age that brand recognition and affinity usually begins to develop in youth, specifically among children under the age of 10. For each example, we have presented an overview of the study, the age at which the study states that brand recognition and affinity usually starts developing, and any conclusions the studies draw regarding how and why the brand recognition and affinity develops at these ages.