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.