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I'm a PUNK

As a single guy, I live a great life. No complaints. I have a great job, family and friends and I am reasonably healthy (a few well-grounded vices keep me from using a superlative).

But I just found out I'm a punk - P.U.N.K. A story making the rounds profiled the efforts by marketers to attract the attention of "aunts" with no children, but who are hip, cool, best friends and confidantes to other peoples' children, whether they're related or not. There's even a website devoted to them.

Pundits call them PANKS - professional aunt, no kids. According to Census Bureau stats cited in the article, 20% of women in the 40-44 year range were childless in 2006. They possess a lot of discretionary income to indulge little ones. And that's what's being a PANK is all about: Have fun with the kids, spoil and indulge them.... and then send them home to mommy and daddy while you go your merry way.

Chances are they're health-oriented (the female age 40-44 bracket is a key wellness demographic), so keep an eye out for them in your aisles. While they might not be shopping differently as a PANK, they might be buying more of the good stuff to share with their little friends. The kids, in turn, get early exposure and positive reinforcement from an authority figure they see as trustworthy, yet indulgent. For health-food marketers, it's an unbeatable combination, especially if the products you make or sell satisfy both criteria.

So now I've added PUNK - professional uncle, no kids - to my already-long list of marketing acronyms. I have a niece, three nephews and two goddaughters who depend upon my ability to remember birthdays, favorite hobbies and sports, likes and dislikes (and that includes food), and a whole bunch of other details I somehow feel responsible for memorizing.

OK, OK. I promise to buy them yogurt when we go out. You like yogurt, right kids?...... Right?