Little Consumers, Big Marketing

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Recently Perri Klass, MD blogged for the New York Times about the “Endless Barrage of Hard Sell” aimed at our children though marketing messages.

The post underscores the reasons I’ve found myself having conversations with my young sons lately about commercials: what they are, and what they’re trying to accomplish. I want them to understand that just because they see and hear someone telling them a product is great doesn’t necessarily make it so, and doesn’t necessarily mean we should buy it. And all this coming from a marketer, no less.

Hey, there are only so many times a mom wants her sons to tell her if only she bought that shampoo or make-up they saw on TV, she would be prettier! Heh.

Have you ever considered how many marketing messages your children are consuming on a daily basis, and what their little brains are doing with those messages? How about the fact that a lot of these messages aren’t necessarily targeted at them, but at the grown-up consumers in their households? I’m not talking about the candy, cereal and toys marketed during Saturday-morning cartoons.

As moms, we hear the warnings all the time to try to limit how much screen time our kids get. Most of the argument focuses on negative effects on their attention. But could screen time also be turning our wee ones into unconscious consumers?

It’s not just catchy TV jingles resonating with our kids. I love this 5-year-old’s take on several brand logos.

Love that she knows the word “logo,” though to be fair, her dad does work in graphic design. I wonder what my 5 and 6-year-olds would know about my work lingo?

I also love that so many of the logos invoke more for her than what the brand is or what the logo looks like. This is exactly the intent of logos after all. To invoke some kind of greater meaning that draws you (or sometimes your kids?) in. That simply at a glance invokes an entire brand personality, down to specific messages and feelings.

Our kids are sponges, we know. They are sponges for information. The fact is information comes to them sometimes in the form of commercial messages.

Why do you think my 5-year-old sweetly tells me “every kiss beings with Kay” when he gives me a bedtime hug and kiss?  He doesn’t know what Kay sells, but he spits out the melody with which its jingle was composed semi-regularly. Somehow Kay has managed to brand the kisses my kid gives his mama, and this is not a kid who watches a lot of TV.

And, why did my 4-year-old nephew have this exchange with his father?

My nephew: “What’s USAA?”

His dad: “Where did you hear about USAA? On TV?”

My nephew: “Yeah. What is it?”

His dad: “It’s an insurance company.”

My nephew: “You mean like Geico? (in a silly voice) 15 minutes can save you 15% on car insurance.”

His dad: (laughing) “Yeah, like Geico.”

My nephew: “Or Nationwide. (singing) Nationwide is on your side.”

The answer is that marketing works. And it’s our honest, unfiltered children who verbally regurgitate what they’ve consumed who prove it. Think you’re immune? You’re just better at holding your tongue than your children are.

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