Not Just Moms: Untapped Opportunity for Brands, meet the ‘Savvy Auntie’ aka PANKs

Left image: Melanie Notkin, in middle, evangelist for Savvy Aunts, at her book launch in Manhattan NYC.

Sex in the City in real life? Professional working woman climbing the corporate ladder? Married women entrepreneurs holding their own? Yes to all.

I so often hear from brand marketers they want to reach the mother bloggers (thank you Moms!), and we’ve seen large industries emerge to serve these very powerful markets, and that’s great –yet what about the rest of the women? I had the pleasure of getting educated about this growing market, which potentially give brands to shift focus away from a saturated market.

Learning about PANKs:
I had an enlightening lunch in the center of Manhattan with Melanie Notkin, a former Marketer at L’Oreal, is the evangelist for this unserved market of Professional Aunts, with No-Kids to better understand this growing market with spending power, which she’s dubbed the Savvy Auntie, and she’s got a website, and company focused on serving these women. While I’ve helped a number of clients on research projects to understand moms, there’s a much broader market we could be looking at: professional women that may be alienated from “mom marketing” with disposable income, Melanie calls these “Savvy Aunties”, and her book with the same title, really brings this demographic to life.

Show me Numbers: Who are these Women?
First, by the numbers, how big is this market? Melanie provided me these numbers, and she’s uploaded a media kit to slideshare, her source is US Census / The White House Report: Women in America (March 2011), she summarizes these women as PANKs or Professional Aunts, No-Kids:

  • American women without children: 47%.
  • Here’s the “women without children” data, broken down by age range:
  • 15 to 19 years: 94.6%
    20 to 24 years: 70.5%
    25 to 29 years: 46.6%
    30 to 34 years: 29.7%
    35 to 39 years: 19.7%
    40 to 44 years: 18.8%

  • In fact, more women than in the past have never had a child. In 2008, about 18 percent of women age 40 44 have never had a child, almost double that in 1976 (up from 10 percent in 35 years).  Thats nearly a fifth of all American women likely without child.
  • There has been a steep rise in the share of women age 25 29 who have not had a child, rising from 31 percent in 1976 to about 46 percent in 2008.

Marketing focused Q&A with Melanie Notkin
I also conducted an interview with Melanie I did a Q&A with Melanie to learn more about this under-served market, here’s what we discussed:

Question from Jeremiah: Can you tell me more about demographics and what brands have catered to them? Which brands are catering to these women?

Melanie: Until the launch of Savvy Auntie, there was little way to connect with the PANK. She’s not reading parenting mags, watching kid programming on TV and seeing commercials, and she’s not at the playground to learn what other aunties are talking about so even word of mouth wasn’t available.

Now, brands like: Disney, Hallmark, Yoplait Kids, Hasbro, Scholastic can reach aunts about gifts for their nieces and nephews. And brands like Tropicana, Schick, Yoplait Delights, and more can reach women with discretionary income relative to mom to spend on themselves.
While not a Savvy Auntie sponsor, in 2010 Sears aired a Mother’s Day commercial that honored all the mothers in your life, like your aunt and mom’s best friend. I spoke to their head of PR about this direction soon after:

The important thing to note here is the opportunity for brands to be at the top of the Zeitgeist. When you can reach women in one of the most heart-felt parts of their lifestyle – as aunts – and you have acknowledged their power and influence in the family village – and at the mall, airport or bank – then you probably have brand-loyalists for life.

To quote a Twitter reply when I announced Tropicana had become a Savvy Auntie sponsor because they “value the role of the aunt in the Family Village” – “I always knew their orange juice tasted better!”

Jeremiah: Why is this different from Mom bloggers?

Melanie: First of all, it’s not for moms (although some “Mommy-Aunties” do love it too) It’s for the nearly 50 percent of American woman who are not moms but love the children in their lives.

Savvy Auntie is a multiplatform media company and was never designed to be a digital-only platform. isn’t a blog; it’s an online community or online magazine. I don’t share publicly about my own nieces and nephews and it’s not a platform for my personal views on aunthood. It’s filled with Expert information and advice, Activity ideas, Gift ideas (I’m a toy expert) and Community. My book, SAVVY AUNTIE: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids (William Morrow/HarperCollins) is a WSJ Best-Seller. I founded Auntie’s Day in 2009 to acknowledge the aunts and godmothers in America every fourth Sunday in July. I also launched the Savvy Auntie Coolest Toy Awards in 2009 to give aunts a list of holiday gift ideas that are sure to be winners

But as much as I build my own platforms, I leverage external platforms to support the Savvy Auntie brand. I’m one of the 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter. You can also find a very active and engaged “Auntourage” on Facebook. As of this writing, there are over 72,000 Fans there which rivals iVillage and Lucky Magazine – both decade-old women’s media brands. You can also find me on (my posts have gone so viral I ended up on CNN that week) and I appear on TV and on radio.

Jeremiah: What is their income? Tell me about their spending power, this is important to executive decision makers.

Melanie: There is no publicly released HH (Household) income data on women without children, per say. Here’s what I can tell you:
Whether single, married, or partnered, we PANKs pack a powerful punch. Especially during economically turbulent times, “there isn’t a business alive” that can afford to overlook our financial clout, says Mary Lou Quinlan, founder and CEO of the marketing firm Just Ask a Woman and author of What She’s Not Telling You: Why Women Hide the Whole Truth and What Marketers Can Do About It.

Here are some key stats that demonstrating the power of the PANKs’ collective purse.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 50 percent of single women own their own homes. They’re also the fastest-growing segment of new home buyers, second home buyers, car purchasers, new investors, and travelers. (Who hasn’t dreamed of taking the nieces and nephews on their first trip to Disney World?) Twenty-seven percent of American households are headed by women, a fourfold increase since 1950.

Of American women who draw annual incomes of $100,000 or more, nearly half don’t have children. In fact, the more a woman earns, the less likely she is to have kids.

Jeremiah: Who Do They influence? Are they socially active? Marketers want to know the benefits of engaging these Women.

Melanie: We’ve been told again and again that moms influence 85 percent of the HH purchases. But the stats usually refer to women – not moms exclusively. In my household, for instance, I am in control of 100 percent of buying decisions. Whether single, married or partnered, women without children have purchasing power like mom, only we may buy less milk and more pink cocktails. (Savvy Auntini anyone?).

They influence each other – and probably influence mom. After all, the ‘cool aunt’ may know the best lip gloss or latest trendy gym class to take.
They also influence their nieces and nephews and other children in their lives. From my book: “Simply being who we are is far too often regarded as “different”–which I put in quotes to emphasize how some people say that word as if being different is a bad thing. Here’s a great rebuttal: In his book The Forgotten Kin: Aunts and Uncles, author Robert M. Milardo, Ph.D., a professor of family relations at the University of Maine, writes, “Parents and nonparents, homosexuals and heterosexuals are valued as aunts and uncles in part because the social conventions that define aunting and uncling simply permit, and sometimes even encourage unconventionality.” The notion that our uniqueness is precisely what makes us such a highly valuable member of the American Family Village is one of the loveliest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

“Aunthood in and of itself has a profound and positive effect on our own personal development. Says Milardo, “The relationships aunts and uncles establish can provide personal satisfaction, opportunities for the development of lifelong friendships, a connection to family and community, a sense of place located in the convoy of generations and the opportunity to enact generative themes.” In other words, aunthood gives meaning to our lives today, and whether we wind up single, partnered or parenting, we give meaning to the generations to come.”

I appreciate the time Melanie spent to educate me on this market and providing me, and now armed with a new perspective, now that I think about it, I’m surrounded by PANKs and Savvy Aunties at work, at home, at family events, and at play.  Now, back to you, what brands do you see catering to this specific set of women?

Any Savvy Aunts out there? Tell us how brands can better serve your needs in the comments below, or on my Google+ thread.

20 Replies to “Not Just Moms: Untapped Opportunity for Brands, meet the ‘Savvy Auntie’ aka PANKs”

  1. Forty-seven percent of us don’t have children?  wow!  That’s an amazing statistic!  Thanks for talking with Melanie and bringing out this stat and some other great insights.  As part of that group, it’s good to know that there are a whole lot of us–we’re just not always properly represented in media.  Melanie’s also right about the alternative point of view we provide to the children in our lives, whether we are aunts/uncles or friends of family, they get to see that not everyone is a mom or dad, that it’s all a choice, and yes, we can be very, very happy with our chosen childless lifestyle.

  2. Thanks Tish.  What ways could companies better understand and cater to these women?  A lot of brand marketers are here, let’s help them at their jobs.

  3. Thank you so much for this article – and coining the term PANK. Perhaps there’s personal biased involved, but I believe this segment is so often overlooked – in so many aspects, from marketing products/services to treatment in the workplace to social stigmas. Up until this article, I haven’t seen anyone give this rising group of influential women attention – in terms of what gets their attention, how they spend their money, and their social behavior. Personally, I think that companies could really benefit by understanding this market much more intimately. Women are waiting longer to get married, and I think it would benefit companies to get a much richer understanding of how this demographic thinks and behaves. A GREAT read! 

  4. Thanks NancyEllen.  I learned about the PANK term from Melanie. Please let us know if you see efforts from brands that have resonated well with you, love to hear your perspective. 

  5. Interesting new demo, but I’d like to see more credible numbers. Yes, women without children are a growing demo, but it’s invalid to extrapolate that childless women are aunts. I question how many are (I’m certainly not, neither is my childless sister). To drive this concept forward, Notkin must offer marketers more realistic, fact-based stats.

  6. Hi Rebecca. It’s true that they may not all be aunts by relation, but I’m speaking of the broader term of a woman who cares for a child not-her-own. Whether it’s a godchild, a niece or nephew by choice – through friendship with the parents, a younger cousin, a co-worker’s or neighbor’s child, whether she’s a nanny, a teacher, a coach… just about every woman has a child in her life. In fact, in my book, I list several types of aunts. It’s truly an inclusive community of women who love a child-not-their-own.  I cannot quantify those stats but it’s a fair assumption that it’s quite a large niche when looking at the breadth of this demographic considering 47.1 of women age 44 or under don’t have children of their own.

  7. Hi everyone. Thanks for your comments. +Kellee Magee That’s why I created Savvy Auntie! Exactly. +Stacey Butler Deem Yes – It’s great that Dr. Tara contributes – love having her perspective so aunts can been teen-savvy!

  8. Thanks Altimeter colleague @a785925e555f4d0e566bf3405974f866:disqus.  I mentioned this same thing to Melanie, that mentally I didn’t always equate “Aunt” to childless woman, but we talked it over lunch and agreed it was a relatable term.

    @twitter-8308762:disqus and all brands, it would be wonderful to see a formal research study done on this growing segment. 

  9. Agreed. It’s a huge demographic and I would love a research partner. It needs to be done – what I DO capture is the emotional qualitative research which is very powerful.

  10. Jeremiah:  well, I’d start with looking at what Melanie is providing PANKS in the way of media.  Yes, she has a community, but what she’s also providing is information.  She’s a great one-stop for busy women who may not want to wade through the extra messages that come with information directed at parents, just to get the information they want or need.   There are other industries and niches that could serve PANKS better, too, where the information could also be condensed into a site or two or three that would be most helpful for them (btw, I’ve got a bare bones workup on a site of my own based on about a year’s worth of niche industry research.  Just need some help and that green stuff…)

    Then we need to look at analytics, perhaps some surveys too, then take that information to agencies and show them where they could place strategic targeted advertising to reach that group.

    For instance, PANKS might be interested in purchasing luxury goods, yet they wonder why luxury good ads are neither directed at them, nor appear in places they might see them.  Answer is that the luxury goods market in the U.S. is considered a mature market, in spending terms, with little growth, so more dollars are put into emerging markets.  If they saw info that PANKS were interested in, perhaps, Rolex watches or high end electronics (I am!) then these companies might be interested in shelling out the dollars for those ads on sites or in publications that meet PANKS needs. And right now there are few sites or pubs that meet those needs.

    So, it’s hard to say to marketers what they might need to do if there are few, if any, media outlets for their messages.  Of all the media sites for women out there, other than Savvy Auntie, few are as niche (and thus info specific.) Media is not meeting the needs, so marketers can’t target their messages as well as they might to, say the mommy market. there’s a whole lot of work that needs to be done for this group in terms of media as well as marketing, that’s for sure.

  11. Hi Jeremiah,

    Thank you for being the first post I’ve ever seen delving deeper into this powerful market segment!  Melanie – can’t wait to learn so much more about PANK’s.  I’m one of them (auntie to two nieces, no children, hard-working professional)!

    I think part of the reason this market is overlooked is because there aren’t enough of us participating in these types of conversations because the awareness that associations and groups of working professional, like-minded women exist, isn’t there yet.  That said, when the collective awareness of PANKs begins to take hold (and I believe we’re in the midst of seeing a positive shift), I think there will be larger and even more defining statistics that marketers won’t be able to ignore and thus, have to begin creating specific programs to target PANKs.

    To take this a step further, I can’t believe Google hasn’t done more to market the Droid to women, and PANKs in particular.  When it first launched all I saw were the robot commercials and “droiiiddd” audio clip that was entirely marketed to men.  But guess what?  There are one, two, three droid phones in my office and guess who they belong to?  Single, working professional women with earning income of +80K/year. 

    Instead of marketing the robots and lightning fast speeds, try marketing to the business applications the device can be used for to communicate to personal and professional audiences.  I wonder how much $$ Google is missing from my demographic.  They certainly don’t have my business.  I’m an iphone user.


  12. oh, and that 47 percent figure:  needs to be unpacked.  What’s the age breakdown? where are the concentrations?  what media do they frequent? how do they feel about what’s already out there and does it meet their needs? what subjects would they like receive better info about?  how do they define or see themselves?  this is all really important info that’s not been looked at for quite awhile. Why do I think that? Well, look at the info in fashion magazines. Technically, my friends and I are out of that demographic, but we still read the mags, even if we think most of the info is irrelevant to us.  We’re part of that 47% and we just are not totally there.

  13. Agreed, Tish. The other issue is that marketers are a little risk-averse. Mom market is a ‘safe’ bet. I have worked with some amazingly forward thinking marketers though, and we’ve done magic together!

  14. so true about the marketers!  I’ve had great feedback on the initial stages of my project, but the big question is what companies might be interested in this project at the early stages.  There’s definitely more magic to be made, that’s for sure 🙂

  15. I think their demographic is geared towards general fashion and lifestyle brands. I personally think they carry a unique purchasing power, in the case that most of their choices and purchases might be geared towards higher end prices and luxury items.

  16. I agree wholeheartedly with this. I too am an Aunt and not just to my actual nephew and niece either, I’m ‘Auntie’ to several more and I love every minute of it.
    I find that brands like Hasbro, who I have worked with on my blog, NonMom, really do ‘get it’ and realize that we buy a lot of stuff for kids too and are interested in kid things.
    Companies and brands that take that extra step to acknowledge that I do indeed count get my dollars and I’m more than happy to spread the word about them in return.

  17. I think you are onto something in that we non-moms are alienated by “mom marketing” (I know I am), but why does our status have to be labeled in terms of the children in our lives? I am an aunt, but I do not see myself as a “PANK.”

    I am a professional. I have disposable income. I have buying power. My purchase decisions extend far beyond the world of children and products that are seen as traditionally female. For the record, I buy peanut butter because I like it and I eat it; not because I am a “choosy mom” (or “choosy aunt”). I buy SUVs because they handle better on the road; not because I am hauling children to soccer practice. Marketers would do well to keep in mind that women are just that – women. Our roles (or lack thereof) do not define us.

  18. I think you are onto something in that we non-moms are alienated by “mom marketing” (I know I am), but why does our status have to be labeled in terms of the children in our lives? I am an aunt, but I do not see myself as a “PANK.”

    I am a professional. I have disposable income. I have buying power. My purchase decisions extend far beyond the world of children and products that are seen as traditionally female. For the record, I buy peanut butter because I like it and I eat it; not because I am a “choosy mom” (or “choosy aunt”). I buy SUVs because they handle better on the road; not because I am hauling children to soccer practice. Marketers would do well to keep in mind that women are just that – women. Our roles (or lack thereof) do not define us.

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