Get Them While They Are Young
UPDATED July 14, 2009

I want a Graco stroller, an Eddie Bauer car seat and a Chicco highchair, or I'm not coming out.
I want a Graco stroller, an Eddie Bauer car seat and a Chicco highchair, or I'm not coming out.

It is well known that marketing experts have been diligently working to target ever-younger audiences, but this example seems to be almost a parody of the genre of youth-oriented ads.
It appeared in the March 2000 issue of Parenting magazine. It is only the most grotesque of the many ways in which such magazines play on parental guilt in order to sell products. Another entire category involves playing on fears about safety to sell a lot of junk.

Children are increasingly the target of marketing for adult products, such as automobiles and vacations. The pervasiveness of the marketing industry's "ownership" (their term) of children is explored in frightening detail be economist Juliet Schor in her 2004 book, Born to Buy. I highly recommend it for any parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, as well as any marketing student who still has a conscience.

The problems of over-indulgent parenting are gaining national attention. See Time's cover story entitled Who's in Charge Here? for some amazing examples of the pernicious effects of marketing to kids - and of parental capitulation.

The documentary film Mickey Mouse Monopoly makes a strong case that Disney programming not only builds brand-loyal young consumers, but also tends to perpetuate dangerous racial and sexual stereotypes. It almost not possible to shield one's kids from Disney, but any parent would be well-advised to watch this film. It is available in BSC's Maxwell Library. In the documentary film Affluenza, a children's marketing expert is heard to say -- without irony -- that "antisocial behavior" in pursuit of products is "a good thing."

There is, however, hope. Of course the financial crisis has caused a lot of real hardships, but it has also caused some affluent parents to reconsider their values -- much to the alarm of marketers such as those cited above. Thanks to Pam (see below) for showing me the New York Times article "For Firstborns, Secondhand Fits the Bill" (July 8, 2009). Some sanity may be returning to the spending class!

For more general analysis of the interactions between marketing and lifestyle decisions, see Pamela Hayes-Bohanan's Simplify Your Life website.

Back to James Hayes-Bohanan's What Can I Do? page.