Six Tips for How to Engage the ‘PANKs’

When it comes to marketing to women, moms tend to get all the attention. Yet a segment of the U.S. population—about 19% of women—spends about $9 billion annually on children, despite having no children of their own. PANKs®, or Professional Aunts No Kids, are women who do not have children, but have a special emotional bond with at least one child in their life. 

PANKs can be aunts, godmothers, cousins, neighbors, and moms’ and dads’ female friends. They are more than 20 million strong, yet have largely gone unnoticed in the marketing mix.

To learn more about what makes PANKs tick, we surveyed North American PANKs. The survey, titled, “The Power of the PANK: Engaging New Digital Influencers,” is a co-branded research initiative by Weber Shandwick with KRC Research and Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie, the lifestyle brand designed around PANKs.

This research is part of our larger “Digital Women Influencers” study of 2,000 women. So why should companies and communicators care about PANKs?  We found that PANKs are important because they are:

  • Big spenders: More than three-quarters (76%) of PANKs spent more than $500 per child in the last year.

  • Highly influential: Nearly seven in 10 (68%) respondents said they’re a role model for the kids in their lives, and 36% said that the kids and parents go to them for fashion and trend advice.

  • Avid info-sharers: PANKs are significantly more likely than women overall (73% versus 67%) to provide information about products and services to others, both in person and through social media.

  • Ahead of the social media curve: PANKs consistently consume more online media than does the average woman (59% versus 51%). 

Clearly, brands have a new opportunity to gain the hearts and spending power of PANKs, but there are some important strategies to keep in mind when looking to engage PANKs.

  1. Acknowledge PANKs: PANKs know they’ve been overlooked and are ready to finally be recognized as a powerful market.
  2. Avoid stereotyping PANKs as non-domestic: Our study shows that PANKs enjoy their domestic lives, but also enjoy community service, charity work or volunteer activities more than does the average woman (57% versus 48%).
  3. Develop online campaigns for PANKs: PANKs are digitally savvy, trusting online reviews (56%) more than their own intuition (47%). Create social platforms content for PANKs, as their postings will likely go viral.
  4. Focus messaging on their unique relationship with kids: PANKs are proud of the relationship they have with the kids in their lives; you won’t insult them by referring to their non-mom status.
  5. Promote traditional mom categories with a PANKs sensibility: Don’t overlook the considerable cross-over opportunities between moms and PANKs.
  6. Build a base of PANK advocates for your company or brand: Many PANKs will become moms one day.  Secure their loyalty now as part of your current moms programs.

For companies that are looking to enhance or expand their female target audience, PANKs represent an excellent strategic opportunity. If engaged properly, PANKs have the power to move markets.

Leslie Gaines-Ross is chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick; Amy Emmatty is a senior VP with KRC Research.