New Digital Influencers–Did You Say PANKs?

December 01, 2012

New Digital Influencers–Did You Say PANKs?

I wanted to share some new research we just launched at Weber Shandwick. Although this blog is usually about reputation, the reputation of women is always a topic I like to muse about. So here we are.
We wanted to identify some new and interesting segments of women that marketers might be overlooking. We all know how important moms are (I am one) but that does not tell the whole story about women today. In fact, I work with many non-moms and I have always admired how involved they are in the lives of their nieces and nephews or their friend’s kids. With that objective in mind, we teamed with KRC Research to survey 2,000 women in North America. The first segment we looked at are PANKs®. What’s that? PANKs are Professional Aunts No Kids. We learned that they are quite an attractive demographic for marketers looking to grow their business and better define their portfolio of female target audiences. Let me explain — PANKs are women who do not have children of their own but have a special bond with a child in their lives. PANKs may include: aunts, godmothers, cousins, neighbors, and moms’ and dads’ friends. Our research, The Power of the Pank: Engaging New Digital Influencers can be found here. We provide you with an executive summary, infographic (cool-looking), slideshare and more.

How did we get this idea? Easy. We were introduced to Melanie Notkin, CEO and creator of SavvyAuntie and the person who coined the term PANKs. Melanie is a digital influencer herself. We thought about how great it would be if we could add more dimension to the concept of PANKs, size the market and determine its scope. And that is what we did. And, momentously, the research is covered in this Sunday’s New York Times. Thank you to Melanie for all her advice and guidance on this amazing segment of influential women, many of whom are socially savvy.

Who are these PANKs? Good question and we have the answers. Here are the salient facts:

  • PANKs are a sizable segment of the population. One in five women (19 percent) is a PANK, representing approximately 23 million Americans.
  • PANKs spend money on kids and assist kids’ parents financially. PANKs estimate that they spent an average of $387 on each child in their lives during the past year, with 76% having spent more than $500 per child. This translates to an annual PANK buying power estimate averaging roughly $9 billion. PANKs also offer economic assistance by providing kids with things kids’ parents sometimes cannot or will not offer them and many have given gifts to parents to help them provide for their kids.
  • PANKs are avid info-sharers. PANKs are sharing information on a wide range of products and services. They are exceptionally good sharers of information about clothing, vacation/travel, websites/social networks sites, and products for digital devices but also index higher on traditional “mom” categories such as groceries/food and beverages, home appliances and decorating goods.
  • PANKs are well-connected and ahead of the online media consumption curve. PANKs consistently consume more online media than the average woman does. While PANKs are no more likely to be on social media than the average woman, they do have more accounts and nearly 200 more connections – driven by Facebook friends and YouTube channel subscribers – and spend slightly more time per week using social networks (13.4 hours vs.12.1 hours, respectively).

So when you think of women today, don’t forget that you might be having dinner with a PANK, working with a PANK, shopping next to a PANK, traveling with a PANK or buying from a PANK.  While we were doing this research and telling people about the topic, we were constantly confronted with women who told us with great pride that they were a PANK. The New York Times reporter is a PANK, the videographer for the Times article is a PANK, a few of our clients we spoke to about the research are PANKs. There is a whole community of PANKs who just want to be engaged with, communicated with and shared information with. It’s all very heartening.


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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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