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Marketing Strategy for the Kid Niche

Creating and marketing products for and to children carries with it a far-reaching responsibility and mystery. How do we create attractive products, help our children grow into healthy adults, and keep our businesses alive? Ethical issues arise everyday because marketing strategies that work well and ethically for adults aren't always appropriate for marketing to youth. Here are some issues pointed out by the Media Awareness Network that we can think about and choose the high road that is best for our society, our children and our long term respect in the business community.

How Marketers Target Kids

Industry spending on advertising to children has exploded in the past decade, increasing from a mere $100 million in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 2000.

Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids.

Some of the methods used to market to children include:

Pester Power

With more autonomy and decision-making power comes vocal power. "Pester power" refers to nagging parents into purchasing, and advertisers know it works. A source to check out: the 2001 marketing industry book Kidfluence.

The marriage of psychology and marketing

Using research to identify children's behaviour, fantasy lives, art work, even their dreams, companies are able to craft sophisticated marketing strategies to reach young people. The American Psychological Association is currently studying this practice for ethical ramifications.

Building brand name loyalty

Marketers plant the seeds of brand recognition in very young children, in the hopes that the seeds will grow into lifetime relationships. According to the Center for a New American Dream, babies as young as six months of age can form mental images of corporate logos and mascots. Brand loyalties can be established as early as age two, and by the time children head off to school most can recognize hundreds of brand logos.

Buzz or street marketing

Many companies are using "buzz marketing"—a new twist on the tried-and-true "word of mouth" method. The idea is 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 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.

Commercialization in education

Budget shortfalls are forcing school boards to allow corporations access to students in exchange for badly needed cash, computers and educational materials. Product placement in schools has long lastin impacts -- whether it is through sponsored educational materials, or the necessary products used in education, such as food or books.

The Internet

This generation of young people is growing up with the Internet as a daily and routine part of their lives.By creating engaging, interactive environments based on products and brand names, companies can build brand loyalties from an early age.

Marketing adult entertainment to kids

Children often want to see entertainment meant for older audiences because it is actively marketed to them. A 2000, report by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed how the movie, music and video games industries routinely market violent entertainment to young children. The FTC studied 44 films rated "Restricted," and discovered that 80 per cent were targeted to children under 17.

The FTC report also highlighted the fact that toys based on characters from mature entertainment are often marketed to young children.

SOURCE: Media Awareness Network

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