Most if us, I think, feel that advertising is influencing our kids more and more. But did you realise that in fact marketers are targeting your children to influence your purchasing decisions? When a car company produces a colouring book, when a store offers a crèche or activities for the kids their motives may not just be to keep your kids occupied so you can browse. Nowadays marketing involves getting your kids to pester you into buying, and not just sweets, breakfast cereal or toys any more. They are working on kids to influence your decision over what furniture to get, what holiday to take, even what car to buy.
Kidfluence by Anne Sutherland and Beth Thompson is not a book aimed at parents; it is subtitled The Marketer’s guide to Understanding and Reaching Generation Y – Kids, Tweens and Teens. This book is aimed at the people targeting our kids to target us.
The book is US biased but the concepts are relevant to any country where US trends will be followed. That’s most of the world. The history of 20 th century retailing applies to most of the western world, since we all went through the same depression, world wars and then the cultural upheaval of the 60’s.
So too are the social trends that form the main themes of this book. As more children grow up in families where both parents work, in a single parent family, spend time in childcare and after school clubs, then the time we spend with them is more and more precious. Therefore as parents we want them to enjoy that time, and we don’t want to spend it arguing! And as we feel guilty at spending less time than we like with our kids we buy them more stuff to compensate. Marketers know this and play on our guilt, and this book gives an insight into how they try to do this.
They want to build brand loyalty from children as young as eight in the hope that they will as adults continue to be customers. From the bank that encourages your children with a high interest kid’s account (although getting the savings habit from a young age is no bad thing) to the designing of cars with video screens and cup holders placed at children’s height, they are getting them young.
For years it has been debated whether advertising to kids should be banned, or at least strictly controlled. The answer surely is to become conscious consumers, to be informed about how we and our children are being manipulated. The authors say in the conclusion to this book that they are ‘neither for nor against marketing to kids’. I feel they are being disingenuous. The book rarely suggests that marketing to kids may be in anyway inappropriate. However it briefly mentions the organisation Center for a New American Dream, an organisation promoting conscious consumption and awareness of the environmental impact of products. And it does point out that it is up to parents to decide how much they allow marketing to influence their decisions.
The book is fascinating in it’s portrayal of how children’s opinions are influencing the whole marketing world more and more, and provides us with a clear warning about the consumers we are producing for the future.