Marketing and advertising for children has already been more challenging and complex. It is always related to emotional impact both for children and parents and more (very much more) psychology. The reason is simple: children are seeing things that they wish (toys, chocolate bars/cakes, clothing, etc). The next step is relatively easy: they start putting pressure on their parents to purchase the respective “new asset” that is going to be forgotten one week later when something new, more trendy comes up on the market. Moreover, children (even if they are less than 5), they are aware that for instance, they cannot socialize properly with other children if they have an old-dated toy or if they do not go to a specific movie (usually this kind of movie is watched in groups with parents). So, again everything is very strong related to “outside”; if parents believe their children are very young so there is no need for huge expenses, they should think twice. The problem is related to the fact that your child can be rejected from a group, because other children would not accept to socialize with someone who does not have the latest “gadgets” in terms of toys.
Marketers know very well all these aspects. That is why they are closely working with psychologists to figure out the best way to market different products for the young audience. In her book “Advertising to children: Is it ethical?”, Rebecca A. Clay is citing psychologist Allen D. Kanner, PhD who has been asking his younger clients what they wanted to do when they grew up. The answer used to be “nurse,” “astronaut” or some other occupation with intrinsic appeal.
But today the answer has changed into ” I want to make money.” For Kanner, one explanation for that shift can be found in advertising.
“Advertising is a massive, multi-million dollar project that’s having an enormous impact on child development,” says Kanner, who is also an associate faculty member at a clinical psychology training program called the Wright Institute. “The sheer volume of advertising is growing rapidly and invading new areas of childhood, like our schools.”
According to Kanner, the result is not only an epidemic of materialistic values among children, but also something he calls “narcissistic wounding” of children.
Besides this, I would use my expertise in Media to add that Marketing is a strong component of manipulation as well. Marketers are using Psychologists to understand children’s social behavior and their parents’ reaction in different circumstances. This has A LOT to do with the product placement and finally with the overall profit of a company.
According to Betsy Wagner’s book called, `Our class is brought to you today by…advertisers target a captive market: school kids’, US News & World Report, Vol. 118, No. 16 (1995), p. 63; France, op.cit.; Rhoda H. Karpatkin and Anita Holmes, `Making schools ad-free zones’, Educational Leadership, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1995): “In the US there are over 57 million school age children and teenagers who spend about $100 billion each year of their own and their family’s money on sweets, food, drinks, video and electronic products, toys, games, movies, sports, clothes and shoes.” These statistics show the best the great potential for this market.
A perfect case-study for marketing for children (and the same time, a very recent one), is Ron Albanese, formerly known as Polka Dot, who had a very nice social/cultural marketing approach for children combined with a lot of rock & roll.
Remember that a couple of lines above I was mentioning about the fabulous cooperation between marketers and psychologists? Well… the lyrics of many songs that Polka Dot is playing are related to “The Robot from Honolulu”, “A Lotta Energy” and “I don’t wanna go to school”. The titles of these songs express exactly the behavior of almost any typical child. Consequently, the songs are enjoyed a lot, because their songs reflect EXACTLY the thoughts of children.
It was a live performance that took place in Hoboken, NJ. The concept was easy: call to action (parents, grandparents and children) united for a light summer evening. Apparently, this should have been all. But it wasn’t. And here is why: in the pause between ‘The robot from Honolulu” and “Dress to impress” (interpreted by Ron’s daughter) the artist introduced some special thanks to the City’s Hall that… is organizing on the 30th September 2012 the Arts and Music Festival in Hoboken. This time, the event is more destined to parents but to children as well, because Ron will also perform then. In other words, while addressing special thanks (a message that was obviously for parents and grandparents) making a strong mental note about an upcoming event where Polka Dot will be and about a city event that will occur soon. Going deeper, always during events for children marketers introduce messages for parents as well (because it is obvious that children under 5 for example cannot join events by themselves). I went there just to have fun and I enjoyed this performance a lot even if it was not targeted to me. I felt child again and I experienced the children’s joy. They made my day!
However, my journalistic education does not leave me to remain on this perspective, but encourages me to go further and analyze the purpose of the event. Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening, it was a good branding/marketing tool for upcoming events organized by the City Hall and last but not least, an intelligent self-promotion. If I had to describe the event in 1 word it would be impossible because it was a bit of all these. It was not disturbing. I realized the other 2 purposes but I chose to focus on the first one: having fun.
This case study represents a very interesting way to understand that marketing has extended not only to product placement (in this situation even if the “product placement” was not tangible it was efficient through an event) but also to music and consequently to lyrics. There is a bit of manipulation everywhere.
I am not saying this is necessarily bad because at the end of the day it is your own decision if you accept to be manipulated or not. But what I do say is that marketing has extended in places where has never been before: elevator, subway tunnels and even on the sky. Marketing is everywhere and subliminal messages have strongly touched over the years.
The question for marketers still remains: shall we create events for children where parents will come anyway? Or would it be better to create events for parents with sections especially for children because adults will take them anyway?
To digest all this, you definitely need “a lotta energy”!