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A sampling of recent developments in the consumer research field.

Everybody knows kids tell their parents what to buy them, but the latest Simmons Kids Study confirms they care most about sneakers. The 1993 study of 2,000 6-to-14-year-olds and their parents, from Simmons Market Research Bureau, New York, reveals that 45.2% of kids influence the choice of sneaker brands bought for them; 38.6% help decide what kind of jeans they buy; 38.2% pick shirts; 34% choose casual pants; and 32.8% select sweats. Girls are more brand-conscious than boys.

Speaking of kids, a study by Teenage Research Unlimited, Northbrook, Ill., says 80% of teen-agers talk to friends about commercials, and 60% agree with the notion that bad advertising can make them "think or feel worse" about a product or company. The finding, among a sample of 2,051 12-to-19-year-olds, "underscores the importance of getting advertising right the first time," said Peter Zollo, Teenage Research's president. "With teens, there are no second chances."

Just exactly what constitutes bad advertising? Well, as one 16-year-old so eloquently puts it: "Bad commercials are the ones that are dumb or suck." Take heed, copywriters.

Dramatic growth in the number of women ages 50 and older is leading more marketers to target that group. The aging of the baby boomer generation will increase their numbers to 61.6 million in 2020 from 36.4 million in 1992, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And a new snapshot of the population segment by the planning and research department at Lintas, New York, shows 50-plus women are angry about their portrayal in advertising and skeptical of both ad claims and sales people generally. Yet they are far more likely to buy luxury cars, cruise vacations and financial services than all women over 18, as well as decaffeinated coffee and egg, salt and sugar substitutes.

"They are not just .|.|. buying incontinence products, denture cleaners or anti-aging creams," the study said.

Viewers tire of funny TV spots no faster than other spots, according to a new analysis of commercial wear-out rates from Research Systems Corp., Evansville, Ind. The company, which measures persuasion scores in a controlled laboratory setting as a barometer of sales effectiveness, said its findings belie the notion that consumers get bored with humorous campaigns once they know the joke behind them. Research Systems also found no marked differences between wear-out rates of spots using competitive comparisons and those that don't.

The still-lagging economy has apparently spurred increases in coupon use. In a study for Parade conducted by Mark Clements Research, New York, 65% of women and 72% of men who shop for food say they use more coupons today than they did two years ago.

Sixty-seven percent cite coupons as the best way to get them to try a new product. No surprise there.

But 74% say coupons would spur them to switch to a brand name from a store-label product. The study also confirms other findings about declining brand loyalty: 22% say they always buy the same brand, vs. 26% two years ago. And 40% of 18-to-34-year-old women say they buy more private-label products than two years ago.

Nielsen Marketing Research, Northbrook, Ill., has added a new service to its FastRead report of scanner-based product sales and customer traffic in grocery stores. The report, providing data within 12 hours, now details the presence of in-store promotions, including advertising and end-aisle displays. That presumably offers a way to gauge their impact on the sales data also generated by the service.

Philadelphia's Strawbridge & Clothier has dethroned Seattle-based Nordstrom as the U.S.' favorite department store. Frequency Marketing, a consultancy that develops loyalty programs for marketers, said its fall Retail Satisfaction Index gave Strawbridge the highest overall ranking based on 19 product and service attributes. The semiannual consumer survey showed Nordstrom, which led overall in the past two surveys, still dominated some categories: Respondents liked its friendly employees and quality merchandise. But Nordstrom's total rank dropped to third, behind Strawbridge and the Jones Store Co.; Marshall Field & Co., and Bon Marche Co. placed fourth and fifth.

(The survey consisted of 3,972 qualified mail questionnaires completed by geographically representative households. Because few chains compete head to head in every market, the rankings are based on weighted averages of customer satisfaction reports).

Still, shoppers are abandoning department stores more than ever for their discount and specialty store counterparts. Fewer than half say department stores are their first choice for buying men's and women's apparel, down from 55% and 54%, respectively, a year earlier.

Women's Wear Daily's Fairchild Fifty survey of U.S. female consumers shows that the 50 best-known fashion brand names are also aggressive advertisers and product innovators. Topping the list are L'eggs and Hanes, both from Sara Lee Corp. Also in the top 10: Levi Strauss & Co., Reebok International, VF Corp.'s Lee jeans, Londontown Corp.'s London Fog, Timex Corp., Nike, Kayser-Roth Corp.'s No Nonsense and Sara Lee's Playtex. The survey was conducted by the Custom Services division of NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based researcher. NPD polled 1,430 women ages 18 to 54 with household incomes of $25,000-plus. Of the women polled, 56.4% responded.M

Gary Levin coordinates Research News.

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