According to Karpatkin and Holmes from the consumer union, “young children, in particular, have difficulty in distinguishing between advertising and reality in ads, and ads can distort their view of the world (Karpatkin & Holmes, op.cit) : They are unable to evaluate advertising claims. One study by ROY FOX, Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Missouri, found that children watching athletes in TV commercials thought that the athletes paid to be in the ad to promote themselves rather than the product. They believed children in ad were real rather than paid actors: In short, they do not see the manipulation.
Regarding the stores, they believe that the stores are owned by a person (not a corporation) and they feel they know the person who owns them.
Concerning the price of the goods, children are not price conscious to any significant extent (Saenz, 1979)
So we can obviously say that calling a child a consumer is an overstatement as there are plenty of things he should be aware of that he is not.
Therefore, targeting vulnerable, naive markets is unethical.
What’s more, more than targeting vulnerable markets, marketers emphasize the non-ethical marketing by the utilization of psychologists. About that, they are recommending that there should be some sort of strategy to protect the young ones from exploitation through this use of psychological ploys (Beder, 1998). As an example, advertising targeting a child may become a problem if it violates the right to privacy, transparency, honesty or autonomy. By using psychologysts in the process of creating ads for children, marketers are imposing upon children’s right to autonomy & transparency.They try studying children’s behavioural trends & they use this to exploit those children: this is quite unethical.
CHILDREN TARGETED ALONE
Unethical ads are those ones that do not involve getting consent from parents. Most of the time such ads are usually aired in the afternoon during kids’programming sessions. They usually create desires in children to have those ads at all costs. When advertising is done without parental consent; that is when children are watching shows on their own then it becomes unethical as they are too young to realize the manipulation. Ex: Those ones that have cartoon characters and are seen as specifically meant for children. At this point, children feel like they are the only ones with the ability of purchasing the item yet it is their parents who have to foot the bill. Marketers try to make children think they can do it by themselves and that they are mature enough.They just send the wrong message and it is not fair.
Ads targeting children alone have shown their effects in a number of ways. In the year 2007, it was found that about 58% of all items purchased by children (through their allowances) are sweet and toys (DAVIDSON, 2002) . The FTC felt a lot of concerns about that, especially regarding the glamorization of food or food habits involving health risks, mainly dental health risks from sugared food or even obesity. The rationale was that youngsters under 12 do not have a good enough background in nutrition knowledge. (FTC report, 1978, Advertising age)
MARKETING RESEARCH ON CHILDREN’S CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR
The question of ethics is another reason for the scarcity of studies of children’s consumer behaviour. Indeed, is it proper to study the cconsumer behaviour of children if the results benefit the businessman more than the child? Whether or not the question should be cast this way might be argued by some, the fact is that in a general view, the child is the embodiment of innocence in our society. As a result, to tamper with his innocence with profit as a motive is considered unforgivable. And, regrettably, studies of consumer’s behaviour are always assumed to contribute to the profit motive either by intent or by default. Consequently, neither government nor businesses, parents or teacher, seem very willing to engage in research activities related to the child consumer unless such efforts are clearly labeled as public policy studies. Ex: the Ward,et al (1975) study or the numerous studies on TV advertising. Adequate proof of this atmosphere was the large numbers of protest letters generated by an academic article that refered to children as a potential market. (McNeal, 1969)
As a conclusion for this part, we can see that advertisements to children have sparked off a lot of controversy, resulting in various reactions in various countries. However, experts agree that unethical marketing occurs when ads are directly aimed at children without getting consent from parents. Organisations can go about this issue through regulating their content, changing their times and embarking on a consumer education to make their young audience be aware. (Waymack, 2000)
MARKETING MANAGERS : UNDERSTANDING THE CONCEPT TO INFLUENCE THESE CUSTOMERS
Consumer behaviour concepts to understand
SENSORY INPUT MANIPULATION
As we saw before in part I, the cognitive status of the child makes that his perception of things is different. Indeed, children process information differently from adults so that is much easier for marketers to manipulate them : Marketers are obviously aware of that.
And here are the concepts marketers mainly use :
-First and foremost, marketers have to understand the sensory systems they should target that are the most “responsive” to catch their attention. Indeed, these little poor things do not even know how to read that they are already attracted by certain products they can recognize; But how is that possible ? How do marketers use this sensory input manipulation with children ?
We will see that this sensory input manipulation is closely related to the cognitive status of the child customer that marketers also have to be aware of.
Children are wide-awake and very sensitive to every external signal.
These are elements that are meant to draw on children’s attention: Music, Sound, Voices, Colour (Murphy 2004) As a result, VISION & SOUND will be the most targeted senses. But we’ll see that the 2 others can still be influenced somehow.
VISION : All the advertisments on TV with characters are designed for this demographic group as children have a lot of affection for them. It will be much more appealing to them as they feel they are the only one who can get the message the right way.
Moreover, brand recognision is very high : Children who cannot yet read can recognize (and pronounce) a brand name when it is offered in its normal symbolic form, for example, on a packaging (Mc.Neal,1964) Children are more like visual learners who do better at memorizing things when they have a picture with which they associate the information.
SOUND : Marketers will have to focus mainly on cool and nice jingles. Indeed, half of the 5, 6 yrs olds disliked TV ads. It was considered disruptive, annoying, untruthful and ridiculous. Their positive feelings towards TV ads were related mainly to the musical jingles and animations. (Mc.Neal,1964). What’s more, it is easier with songs to memorize things for children.
Let’s see a few things in the 2 other ones, even if they are not the most “affected” senses.
SMELL: This one can also refer to the classical conditioning. Indeed, if we think about Crayola, the company has patented the smell of their products as it has associations with childhood. (F.Leclerc,1994) so that smells can play a role in a child’s attention.
TOUCH: Packages may influence the youngster’s attitudes toward the product or brand (Mc.Neal,1964). Children like wide mouths on jars of peanut butter and jellies, they like boxes of snacks better than sacks because the latter are difficult to open and close, they dislike the wrappers on some frozen desserts and candles, and in general, like canned beverages better than bottled ones. They view aerosol containers as potentially hazardous, even though, they enjoy playing with them.
To conclude, we can say that the sensory input manipulation will have a major role in memorizing things regarding children so that it has to be studied carefully.
Marketers have to understand the motivation of their purchase.
If we refer to the Maslow’s pyramide of needs, most children buys things to be accepted in a group and sociabilize. (=> Belongingness level in the hierarchy). Indeed, the toys, crafts and games they buy are those also bought by their friends. Such purchases provide bonds for friendship groups. Clothing items are also group determined and include mainly tennis shoes (always by brandname) and T-shirts with special designs and messages printed on them.
Entertainment expeditures like sporting events, movies and pintball machines are also a means of socializing for children. The pintball machines apparently meet a number of needs that goes beyong the one of belongingness as children say they provide an element of togetherness but also elements of competitiveness, excitment and adulhood (Self-esteem, achievement).
What’s more, even the act of buying can be a motivation for the self achievement for children.
Indeed, sometimes during the 5th or 6th year, the child consumer will solo; He will make his 1st unassisted purchase excursion. It might be a “milk and bread” purchase or a purchase of a personal treat . In any case, the act seems to be viewed by the youngster as a major step toward maturity-one of the requirements for growing up: “I buy, I’m getting more mature ! ”
MASLOW / SEX ROLE SOCIALIZATION / EXTENDED SELF
The sex role socialization can be discussed in this paragraph.Likewise, the concept of extended-self. Indeed, marketers have to recognize the powerful role that toys play in consumer socialization for children. Children have obviously not a complete self definition of themselves; And, if we refer to the symbolic self completion theory, children tend to complete their identity by acquiring & displaying symbols associated with it. (Michael R.Solomon, 2010, TEXTBOOK). For example, girls tend to stick to dolls whereas boys gravitate toward “action to figures” and high-tech diversions. A girl who would be interested in getting a truck toy would be more likely to be perceived as “not normal” towards her other girlfriends and would be rejected from the group so that marketers can emphazise the feeling of belongingness to the group by letting them think that they need a doll to look more “girlie”.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS OF CHILDREN
Marketers have to think about all of it: What do children spend their money on ? Where ? and What information sources do the children use ? (Anderson, 1978)
To begin, most children at all ages use their money to purchase items for immediate gratification. Their main purchase could be called “sweets”: they buy candy, beverages, ice cream, frozen desserts, gum (maily bubble gum), flavored gelatin (for eating in powder form) and an occasionally piece of fruits. These items taste good and are for children part of the mechanism for socializing just as some of them do for adults as we talked about earlier. These are the main items bought by the 5 years old. Later on, they will also spend their money on toys, crafts, games, entertainment and school supplies. They also buy some clothing items and gifts for others. Older children make an occasional purchase for the home. That combines into a symbol of responsibleness and thoughtfulness. They buy quite a few gifts for parents and friends. Buying a Mother’s day gift Father’s day seems very important, even more important than Christmas.
There are 3 types of stores in which youngsters make most of their purchase : Convenience store “has everything” for most children. It is close to home & school, and it does offer many sweets and pintball machines and they usually “like children”. It appears that the smaller floor space of the convenience store & the presence of its store manager offers a more personal atmosphere. They have more positive feelings such as “exciting, grown up, rich, important & proud”. (SAENZ,1979)
In contrast, people are “unfriendly” in supermakets and they are more likely to have negative feeling such as being “scared, weird, nervous, not safe, funny and embarrassed and crowded ”.
The discount houses & supermarkets do offer the youngsters a variety. “It is fun to look at things there”. It is in these stores that they buy toys, games, crafts, sacks of candy, and gifts for others such as mom & dad.
The shopping malls have been very welcomed too. Children see it as a place to meet, to spend hours “looking” and to get information for future purchases; It is the main source of clothing items.
Interestingly, the shopping malls have a “bunch of stores” while a shopping center is viewed as having 1 or 2; mainly the anchor stores such as supermarket, discount house or department stores. Department stores are “no-no’s” in terms of a place to make purchases.
INFORMATION SOURCES ?
The most trustworthy source of purchase information is parents. “They tell you the truth”and besides that, they depend on them for the purchase anyway.
TV ads, friends are the next most important sources; Then, come teachers and all kinds of “legitimate” sources. (ex: dance teacher)
The other source of information is the store. The store personal usually are not the source but the products, their packages, brands and point of purchase advertising in the store that do the informing.
In sum, children seem to seek information about purchases just as adults do somewhat. They plan most purchases even though the lengh of their planning is usually relatively short.
INFLUENCE OF CHILDREN ON THE DECISION PROCESS
Nowadays, children influence parents even more so that they play an important role in family decision making, using a range of sophisticated behaviours. It is usually refered as “parental yielding”. This is a key driver of product selections because about 90% of requests to a parent are by brand name. The likelihood that yielding will occur depends partly on the dynamic of a family, parental styles obviously (strict vs permissive) and also vary in terms of the amount of responsability children are given to make decisions. (Les Carlson & Al,1994)
One study documented the strategies kids use to request purchases. Although most children simply asked for things, other common tactics included saying they had seen it on TV or that a sibling or friend had it, or doing chores in return. Other actions were less innocuous; they including placing an object in the cart & continuous pleading- often a persuasive behaviour! (Leslie Isler,1987). In addition, the amount of influence children have over consumption is culturally determined. Children who live in indicidualistic cultures such as the USA & Australia have more direct influence, whereas kids in collective cultures like Japan get their way more indirectly (Gregory Mc.Rose,1999)
CONSIDERING CHILDREN AS A 3rd MAJOR MARKET
Children represent 3 markets. In addition to the direct money they spend and the money they influence, children also represent a 3rd major market & perhaps the most significant and that is the future market (MC.Neal,1992)
Advertisers recognize that brand loyalties & consumer habits formed when children are young and vulnerable will be carried through the adulthood. Kids “R” Us president, Mike Searles, says “if you own this child at an early stage... you can own this child for the years to come”. (Michael.F.Jacobson & Laurie Ann Mazur,1995)
Retailers & manufacturers have 2 sources of new customers: those who they can persuade to change from their competitors & those who have not entered the market yet. Those who switch are less likely to be loyal than those who are nurtured from childhood (Mc.Neal,1992 p91). According to the CEO of Prism Communications, “they aren’t children so much as what I like to call “evolving customers” (Ontario Secondary school Teacher’s Federation, a research report, 1995)
So it is important for marketers to communicate to children as they represent a 3rd major market when they are older.
Tactics designed by the marketers
Regarding the sensory input manipulation ...
VISION & SOUND : TV / INTERNET WITH CHARACTERS THAT APPEAL TO CHILDREN
TV is the most use means of communication towards children, especially when using characters. As we have seen before, they appeal a lot to children’s affection.
Children’s advertising covers all types of media outlets from newspapers to TV stations but TV is the main one.
By the time most children start school, they will have spent 5000 hours watching TV.
They will spend more time watching TV than they spend in class for their entire schooling (Richard Zoglin,1990). Similarly in Australia, where in 1 in our 4 homes children have their own TV sets, children spend an average of a quarter of their spare time in front of TV (Powell & Zuel,1993) . So that today, 70% of the total amount spent on advertising to children in the US but total advertising makes up only about 15% of the total amount of money spend on marketing to children. Informercial aimed at children is the TV show whose main characters are modelled after toys.
By 1988, 64% of TV toy ads were for toys related to children’s TV programs. Often cartoon characters would be launched after movies, be followed by TV series and then be merchandised on hundreds of products from T-shirts to toys (Jacobson & Mazur,1995)
The head of Disney explained to Advertising Age in 1989 how Disney Corporation’s activities all reinforced each other : “The Disney Stores promote the consumer products which promote the (theme) parks which promote the TV shows. The TV show promote the company (Mark Crispin Miller,1995).
Companies have understod well the manipulation through the characters.
Brandweek cited a survey that showed Mc.donald’s was the favourite fast food all over the world and Coke the favourite drink.(Laurie Klein,1997) Clown Ronald is obviously part of the reason why so are the bears or even the Coca-cola Santa. Also, the colors such as red and yellow in the different ads the companies chose also appealed to them. Indeed, yellow is very appealing to children, meaning happy fun, sunshine and warmth; red for adrenalin.
Also, children have difficulties differentiating ads and TV programs & marketers do not help by including characters in the ads, blurring even more the distinction between the 2.
A new area for advertising is the internet. It is estimated that about 4 million children are using the internet world-wide and this figure is bound to increase dramatically over the next few years. (Center for media education,1996) According to the director of Saatchi & Saatchi Interactive, “This is a medium for advertisers that is unprecedented... There is probably not other product or service that we can think of that is like it in terms of capturing kids’ interest. Children as young as 4 are being targeted by advertisers on the internet and often the interaction with the children is unmediated by parents or teachers (Center for Media Education, `Web of Deception', op.cit). These advertisers elicit personal information from children by getting them filling out surveys before they can play and offering prizes such as T-shirts for filling in “lenghty profiles that ask for purchasing behaviour, preferences & information on other family members” (Nora Fitzgerald,1996)
Advertisers then use this information to “craft individualized messages and ads” targeted at each child. The ads are integrated with the other content of the internet site which is designed to keep the children engrossed in play for hours at a time. There are even product “spokescharacters” to interact with children & develop relationships with them so that long lasting brand loyalties can be developed.
Michael Brody, spokesperson for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychatry, told US Federal Trade Commission workshop on privacy that preadolescent children do not understand what personal information is. What is more, he pointed out, they look up to fictional characters and tend to do what they ask of them (Susan Gregory Thomas,1997)
Buzz or street or viral marketing – Group influence
Regarding Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept...
Children need to feel they are part of a group. In every group, there is a “leader” and he is the kid who will influence all the others. Marketers have to find this one so they can use what we call “viral marketing”. Indeed, around puberty, in the early teens, children are forming their own identities and they are “highly vulnerable to pressure to conform to group standards and mores” (Fritz,op cit, p13) . At this age, they feel insecure and want to feel that they belong to their peer group. Advertising maniputates them through their insecurities, seeking to define normality for them; influencing the way they view and obtain appropriate models for the adult world; and undermining “fundamental human values in the development of the identity of children (Mizerski,1995). Ads actively encourage them to seek happiness and consumption.
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, as we developed a lil bit before, 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.
Buzz marketing is particularly well-suited to the Internet, where young "Net promoters" use newsgroups, chat rooms and blogs to spread the word about music, clothes and other products among unsuspecting users.
Ex: When Super Mario blows the You Tube screen to bits, there’s sure to be a buzz!
The advertiser found a clever way to get everyone talking about Wii by airing the buzz marketing campaign, and signing (or so we think) a pricey agreement with You Tube. Ready for an earthshaking experience? .
MARKETING ADULT ENTERTAINMENT TO KIDS
Also, when they buy, children want to be seen as growing-up people.
When you are a child, you are always very attracted by things you are not in the age to get, and markerters understood it well. That’s why they also use what is called “Marketing adult entertainment to kids”
The FTC studied 44 films rated "Restricted," and discovered that 80 per cent were targeted to children under 17. Marketing plans included TV commercials run during hours when young viewers were most likely to be watching. One studio's plan for a violent R-rated film stated, "Our goal was to find the elusive teen target audience, and make sure that everyone between the ages of 12 and 18 was exposed to the film."
Music containing "explicit-content" labels were targeted at young people through extensive advertising in the most popular teen venues on television, and radio, in print, and online.
Of the video game companies investigated for the report, 70 per cent regularly marketed Mature rated games (for 17 years and older) to children. Marketing plans included placing advertising in media that would reach a substantial percentage of children under 17.
The FTC report also highlighted the fact that toys based on characters from mature entertainment are often marketed to young children. Mature and Teen rated video games are advertised in youth magazines; and toys based on Restricted movies and M-rated video games are marketed to children as young as four.
Media Awareness Network
Regarding the MASLOW concept, SEX ROLE SOCIALIZATION & the EXTENDED SELF...
Besides children want to be part of a group, they also want to be recognized as an “individual”. (Self-esteem, recognition). A girl will want to be seen as such, even when she is a child. They are also interesting in learning new things, discovering things they do not know. One company has found the perfect toy that combines both needs. Indeed, recently, a group of Californian entrepreuners brought out a line of dolls called the “smartees”. These characters include Ashley the attorney, Emily the entrepreneur and Destiny the doctor. A paperback tells each doll’s story and includes a sample of a resumé for a person who might have that job in real life.
Also, now a working woman, Barbie comes with a miniature computer and mobile phone as well as a CD rom with information about understanding finances. She is dressed in a grey suit, but the skirt reverses to a red dress to be worn with red platform shoes for her after work adventures with Ken.
SCHOOLS COMMERCIALIZATION IN EDUCATION
Regarding the CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR PATTERNS OF CHILDREN & CONSIDERING CHILDREN AS A 3rd MAJOR MARKET
We saw in the previous part what the different children’s sources of information were. Among them, we noted legitimate sources such as parents and friends but also other legitimate ones such as schools.
As their cognitive structures are beginning to form, they are more sentive to external influences and when ads appear on school walls and posters, book covers as it gains legitimacy from the supposed endorsement of the school so that children think they must be true. (Mizerski,1995) By gaining legitimacy, brands also gain brand awareness for the potential future market that children can represent as a 3rd market.
Commonwealth for example, used to send bank staff to schools where they would set up a desk in the playground and children would queue to deposit their 50 cents or $1. The bank also gave out plastic moneyboxes with the bank logo visible. In a similar way, Coca-Cola visited schools with demonstrations of yo-yos as a publicity axercise for their brands.
Another way to find information for children is the package itself in supermarkets.
Every product intented for kids in a store has been at kid eye for decades, and it has been proved to work. Just think about the time you get to the register...
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE INFLUENCE OF CHILDREN ON THE DECISION PROCESS
Children 12 and under spend about $100 billion each year of their own money and influence family spending decisions worth another $165 billion on food, household items like furniture, electrical appliances and computers, vacations, the family car and other spending (Tom Mc.Gee & Kevin Heubusch,1997). For example, one study estimated that children influenced $9 billion worth of car saled in 1994. One car dealer explains: “Sometimes, the child literally is our customer. I have watched the child picked up the car”. (T.L.Stanley,1995)
This means that car manufacturers cannot afford to ignore the children in their marketing.
Companies such as NISSAN sponsor the American Youth Soccer Organization and a travelling geography exhibit in order to get exposure for their brand name and logo in child-friendly settings. CHRYSTLER distributes 100s of thousands of glossy cardboard pop-up promotional books by direct mail that will appeal to children who love pop-up books. And CHEVROLET had used ads featuring children. Some car dealers have added children’s play areas and arcade games to their facilities (T.L.Stanley,October 1995)
Although children have a great influence on parents regarding certain goods, parents remain the 1st ones to be convinced. (cf the smart dolls : smart idea to get parents buy them)
The issue of marketing itself has 2 main components:
The 1st group is made up of the abolitionists & the second are the libetarians. The abolitionists believe that all advertising to children is wrong and that it should be completly eliminated : But this is something that is unrealistic and cannot be feasible in today’s fast paced and commercial word. Companies will not stop bank rolling out ads, just as they will never stop rolling out ciggarettes that are known cancer causing killers.
The other extreme is held by the liberalists who believe that ads to children should be left as they are. They insist that society shapes ads and that ads do not change the moral values. But this is denying the obvious too. The fact that children in the UK and even in other part of the world spend the largest portion of their leisure time watching TV implies that they will pick up some of the habits depicted in their screens. (Waymack 2000)
In light of the above facts, it is important to come up with a compromise on the issue through taking up responsible marketing. Children can still consider as a target audience for marketing of retail products, however, this should be conducted in such a responsible and socially sustainable manner.
Moreover, we have seen that it is very important for marketers to understand some consumer behaviour concepts as it helps them to implement some kinds of strategies then.
In fact, much marketing to children now consists of sales promotions such as direct coupons, free gifts,and samples, contests and sweepstakes, and public relations such as using celebrities and licensed characters which visit shopping centres & schools. New technologies have also provided new opportunities such as the internet & telephone services that enable “new, personalized pomotions” aimed at children (Mc.Neal,1992). Marketing in schools is also a growing arena Sharon Beder,1997.
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