Parenting

Are you a "PANK"?

Big toy advertisers are counting on PANKs this holiday season.

Photo: Zone Creative/iStockphoto

So, it turns out I’m a PANK.

A what? Yeah, that’s what I said this morning when a colleague forwarded a The New York Times article touting the purchasing power of PANKS this holiday season.

It’s not the parents big advertisers are counting on this December, the real cash cow is the PANK, or Professional Aunt, No Kids — an acronym coined by Melanie Notkin, a former marketing executive and the founder of the website SavvyAuntie, a resource for women who don’t have kids but have nieces, nephews, godchildren or friends’ kids to spend time and money on.

“That’s the luxury of being an aunt,” Dr. Lee, a single pulmonologist living in Los Angeles, tells The Times in “Holiday Bonus: A Beloved Aunt With Cash.” “I don’t have to buy things she needs. I can buy the things that I want.”

Personally, I’m just coming around to the idea of giving gifts that are big on wow factor but lack an educational/development one-two punch. I’m the auntie who’s the stickler for including a book with birthday gifts. And not just any book, there’s a strict criteria for my two young nephews and niece: Does this teach a valuable moral lesson? Is this a childhood classic? Am I improving their little lives by adding this story to the bookshelf (how precious of me, I know). But, I’ve quickly learned (especially as the Charlesworth kids get older and more vocal about their opinions) that books are usually a letdown and/or forgotten as soon as the next present is dropped on their lap.

Working at Today’s Parent gives me a competitive edge that a lot of other PANKs don’t have, though. Unlike Ms. Notkin circa 2008 when she launched her site (“There were no resources for the modern cosmopolitan aunt,” she says. “Because I’m not at the park with them, I’m not picking them up at school, I’m not necessarily sure what kids are into these days.”), I get to see the latest and greatest toys come through the office, and learn which ones rank the highest with our adorable pint-size testers. So, this year I have intell on what’s going to be big Christmas morning, and I’m rethinking my gift strategy. I want to be the one generating the WOWs!!! from my niece and nephews.

According to “The Power of the PANK: Engaging New Digital Influencers” — a report created by Ms. Notkin, global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, and KRC Research — there are about 23 million women in America who are potentially in the PANK category (we don’t have stats for Canada). According to the study, “they spend an average of $387 a year on each child in their lives. But the vast majority, 76 percent, spend more than $500 a year.”

“PANKs have discretionary income that the average woman doesn’t,” says Stephanie Agresta, the executive vice president and managing director for social media at Weber Shandwick. So far, PUNKs, or Professional Uncle, No Kids, don’t hold the same allure for marketers. It also seems the PANK category can include honourary aunties, too.

“For every child, there are like 10 women who are loving that child: an aunt, a friend, a co-worker. That network of women is something we definitely want to tap,” Brenda Andolina, the director of public relations and brand marketing at Fisher-Price, tells The Times.

Do your kids have a special aunt or uncle?

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