Marketers take advantage of children

Marketing to kids  has become the most effective way of marketing . This because this makes one loyal to the brand for a lifetime. We also find that children influence the decision making on what will be bought. Marketers take advantage of children who don’t understand advertisement gimmicks.

Kids represent an important demographic to marketers because in addition to their own purchasing power (which is considerable) they influence their parents’ buying decisions and are the adult consumers of the future.

According to the 2008 YTV Kids and Tweens Report, kids influence:

  • Breakfast choices (97% of the time) and lunch choices (95% of the time).
  • Where to go for casual family meals (98% of the time) (with 34% of kids always having a say on the choice of casual restaurant).
  • Clothing purchases (95% of the time).
  • Software purchases (76% of the time) and computer purchases (60% of the time).
  • Family entertainment choices (98% of the time) and family trips and excursions (94% of the time).

As a result, industry spending on advertising to children has exploded over the past two decades. In the United States alone, companies spent over $17 billion doing this in 2009 – more than double what was spent in 1992.

Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing having children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids.

Here are some of the strategies marketers employ to target children and teens:

Pester power

“We’re relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product, rather than going straight to the mom.”
Barbara A. Martino, Advertising Executive

Today’s kids have more autonomy and decision-making power within the family than in previous generations, so it follows that kids are vocal about what they want their parents to buy. “Pester power” refers to children’s ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be.

According to the marketing industry book Kidfluence, pestering or nagging can be divided into two categories—”persistence” and “importance.” Persistence nagging (a plea, that is repeated over and over again) is not as effective as the more sophisticated “importance nagging.” This latter method appeals to parents’ desire to provide the best for their children, and plays on any guilt they may have about not having enough time for their kids.

The marriage of psychology and marketing

To effectively market to children, advertisers need to know what makes kids tick. With the help of well-paid researchers and psychologists, advertisers now have access to in-depth knowledge about children’s developmental, emotional and social needs at different ages. Using research that analyzes children’s behaviour, fantasy lives, artwork, even their dreams, companies are able to craft sophisticated marketing strategies to reach young people. For example, in the late 1990s the advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi hired cultural anthropologists to study children engaging with digital technology at home in order to figure out how best to engage them with brands and products.

Building brand name loyalty

Canadian author Naomi Klein tracked the birth of “brand” marketing in her 2000 book No Logo. According to Klein, the mid-1980s saw the birth of a new kind of corporation—Nike, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, to name a few—which changed their primary corporate focus from producing products to creating an image for their brand name. By moving their manufacturing operations to countries with cheap labour, they freed up money to create their powerful marketing messages. It has been a tremendously profitable formula, and has led to the creation of some of the most wealthy and powerful multi-national corporations the world has seen.

Buzz or street marketing

The challenge for marketers is to cut through the intense advertising clutter in young people’s lives. Many companies are using “buzz marketing”—a new twist on the tried-and-true “word of mouth” method. The idea is to find the coolest kids in a community and have them use or wear your product in order to create a buzz around it. Buzz, or “street marketing,” as it’s also called, can help a company to successfully connect with the savvy and elusive teen market by using trendsetters to give their products “cool” status.

Commercialization in education

School used to be a place where children were protected from the advertising and consumer messages that permeated their world—but not any more. Budget shortfalls are forcing school boards to allow corporations access to students in exchange for badly needed cash, computers and educational materials.

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There is malice in the intention as to why marketers target children with their advertisement. This is because children end up making decisions depending on the celebrity characters they see in the advertisement, as much as the product might not be healthy enough.

“There’s no moral, ethical, or social justification for marketing any product to children,” she says. “Advertising healthier foods to children is problematic. We want children to develop a healthy relationship to nutrition and to the foods that they consume. Advertising trains kids to choose foods based on celebrity, not based on what’s on the package.”

Ian Barber, communications director of the UK’s Advertising Association, suggests that the child marketing furore may ultimately be a matter of displacement; parents who are concerned about certain products may become angry or upset when they are marketed to children, and may blame the medium for the message.

“Advertising becomes a proxy for complaints about particular companies, brands or products,” he argues. “Advertising isn’t the issue. The sort of advertisements that children see is the issue. But then you get into a very objective debate about how people feel about certain brands or services.”

Linn disagrees. “Advertising, in and of itself, is harmful to children,” she argues. “Marketing targets emotions, not intellect. It trains children to choose products not for the actual value of the product, but because of celebrity or what’s on the package. It undermines critical thinking and promotes impulse buying.”

When it comes to legal restrictions on child advertising, the UK occupies a spot somewhere near the middle of the spectrum. At one extreme, Sweden, Norway and Quebec completely bar marketing to children under the age of 12. At the opposite end are countries such as the US, where the marketing industry is self-regulated, with few legal restrictions on the material that advertisers can broadcast to children.

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