Fads seem to come and go in waves, just as babies being born within generational circles. During the process every one adapts to the latest pediatric care trend to facilitate a healthy baby. As the little one grows, everyone baby proofs their home for each visit of the toddler. And, children’s films and theme parks are frequented once the preschool years hit.
I’m amazed at how much our lives change by our own choices in order to encourage the next generation. Even our finances shift to help improve their lives and help prepare them for outrageous college fees (An estimated $300,000 for those born this year).
Society doesn’t see things in the same way. Rather than helping the child to be a kid and kept innocent during their early years of development, commercial companies push to develop them as their own brand baby. The race to drive them into being the ideal consumer is launched at birth, especially with corporate America attempting to preprogram children in time for their critical job of driving family buying decisions once they become teens.
Disney studios determined that a push every seven years introduces another group of growing children into the world of Disney and forms them as a brand junky for life. I recently read that in the county where I live allowances are up to $40 a week, driven by the commercial explorations our kids are surrounded by daily. Even Coke and Pepsi get exclusive contracts in our kids’ schools for the sake of building life long brand junkies.
So the question I have is, do we teach our kids about how the media manipulates their buying decision so they can make better choices, or do we keep them away from the onslaught of commercialism as long as possible? Since I can’t be with my kids all of the time, I chose to educate them on advertising, public relations, and product placement.
The stealthiest form of advertising is called gorilla advertising. In adult circles, it’s when a company hires two sexy women to sit in a bar all night flirting with men and drinking their product, or smoking their cigarettes. In Jr. high, it shows up in the form of a popular guy who is given a free cool product to show off at school, driving dozen of purchases over the next two months. Junior clothing is the biggest influx of gorilla advertising.
Those who get sucked in to buying $120 jeans are most often the recipient of being targeted by well planned gorilla advertising. It is so subtle that most people buy into the concepts and dreams without one thought of having been targeted.
When I was a senior in high school and the leader of the drum section, a new type of drumstick came out that was black. It was original, artistic and a result of a new cutting edge production technique. I was given a couple new pairs by the music store and told to use them in all of the bands and orchestras I played in, which back then included four groups. The result was numerous purchases that led to hundreds of dollars in add on sales.
The manufacturer gave every music store a couple free pairs to be given away in gorilla advertising. I later learned that every pair generated about $2,000 in various sales for the store and $600 for the manufacturer. The promotional costs to the manufacturer were only $0.50 per pair of sticks, generating a great return on its money. Everyone won, except for those people who had a fine pair of sticks that didn’t need replacing.
Even the two ladies that invented the Post It notes used gorilla advertising. After the executives of 3M turned down their idea, they started using the Post It notes internally. After a few short months, the demand for more notes was raised to the point where 3M was forced to manufacture the product for their internal use. It wasn’t long before it became a steady seller at office supply locations and department stores.
The most successful brand managers take advantage of the wise proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” The question is, at what point do you stop changing your life to fit the child’s and begin training the child about how to make decisions in the commercial world we live in?
It might not be wise to let your child figure things out for themselves during their early childhood years, as corporations are ready to train up every child. That’s why I taught my kids how the media worked and hoped that they would assess every message before accepting it. After all, the corporations weren’t going to stop broadcasting their messages on TV, radio or in the schools.
The proverb is true and corporations want to get to every child before the competition. There are even political indoctrination programs for young kids in order to submerge them in certain philosophies before they become teens. The key question is, are you an active parent or grandparent that is helping your kid or grandchild to understand family wishes and heartfelt desires, or are you leaving it up to corporations?