PERSPECTIVES: The Next Marketing Frontier for Toy Brands

Melanie Notkin, President and Founder of Savvy Auntie, talks about the “PANK”— Professional Aunt No Kids – and urges toy marketers to tap into this emerging demographic.

December 17, 2012 | There’s something magical about being an aunt, and at the holiday season, even more so. Aunts, especially those of us without children of our own, pay special attention to the children in our lives. The holidays – along with the children’s births and birthdays, graduations, milestones, etc. – are all fabulous opportunities to help make their wishes come true and put smiles on their faces. And many of us relish it.

In 2008, I founded my company, Savvy Auntie, a multiplatform lifestyle brand for cool aunts, great-aunts, godmothers and all women who love kids, for aunts like these. I knew that women who were not (yet) moms and loved a child in their life were a powerful part of the toy and juvenile industry economy but were not being acknowledged by brands. Toy marketers rarely reached out to us directly, perhaps not knowing how to or perhaps not knowing why they should.

In the years since its launch, Savvy Auntie has become the foremost community for aunts and godmothers – secondary caregivers and primary gift givers. But it was only recently, when I partnered with Weber Shandwick, a leading global PR firm, and KRC Research on a national joint study on the PANK® – or Professional Aunt No Kids – the term I coined for the majority demographic of Savvy Aunties, that my assumptions about the generosity of this market were found to not only be true, but conservative compared with our findings. What we discovered is remarkable.

First, there are a lot of us; there are 23 million PANKs in America - or one in five women is a PANK, i.e. a woman who does not have a child of her own but plays an active role in the life of a child. This sizeable niche is comparable to Black/African American adults (28 million) and a segment larger than other highly sought-after niche markets, such as the LGBT market, estimated to be 16 million.

We also found that the average PANK is younger than the average mom (age 36 vs age 46) and she also has disposable income, dynamic influence, and a pretty digitally-connected lifestyle.

For toy marketers, the opportunities are vast. PANKs estimated 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.

If you are a PANK or know one, you won’t be surprised to hear we are indulgent, with one-third (33%) of us giving the kids in our lives more expensive gifts than others give them. This is in spite of PANKs’ cautious spending habits, as most (75%) say they are more careful with how they spend money since the economic crisis, demonstrating that they are willing to make sacrifices for the kids in their lives. In fact, 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. And more than a third (34%) say that they contribute to a child’s education.

These generous creatures are primed and ready to be engaged by toy and juvenile market brands. Yet, this powerful niche remains virtually untapped. In fact, exactly half of those surveyed believe that society in general overlooks women who don’t have children. It is not surprising then that our study found that significantly more PANKs than moms agree with the statement, “Most advertising and marketing is not geared towards women like me” (43% vs. 36%, respectively). 

Now, it’s up to you. PANKs are waiting for the toy industry to recognize the valuable role they play in the family village – and, without a doubt, in the toy aisles, too.

For more detailed information, the executive summary and infographic, please visit my PANK Power site at and Weber Shandwick’s Digital Women Influencers site at:

About the Study
The online research was conducted with KRC Research in August 2012 among 2,000 women, ages 18 and over, in the United States and Canada. The margin of error at the 95% level of confidence is ± 5.1 percentage points for PANKs and ±2.25 percentage points for total women.

About Melanie Notkin
Melanie Notkin has developed several platforms designed specifically for PANKs, otherwise known to consumers as “Savvy Aunties,” including:, Auntie’s Day® - a national holiday to celebrate and honor aunts – and a large and influential social media following on Facebook and Twitter. As ‘America’s Savvy Auntie,’ a national bestselling author, and on-air lifestyle expert, Melanie is regularly called upon as a brand spokesperson and influencer. Visit for more information.