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Littlest consumers raise question of responsibility


The influence of child shoppers in America on their parents’ purchases has been on the rise for decades. The numbers are staggering. And it’s not just about Mom and Dad’s money either. Children spend $4.2 billion of their own money on top of what they get their parents to purchase.

Of course, marketers want children to buy their products, but even more important to them is planting the seeds for brand loyalty.

Just as young children learn to swim or speak a foreign language more easily than older kids, logic dictates that brand loyalty can be taught at an early age. Studies show that promoting brands to children when they’re young works. They’ll begin to recognize product brands at 18 months and that will influence their preferences shortly thereafter.

Eighteen months. They’re barely walking and talking, and our industry already has them in its cross hairs. I hate to sound like a Jedi Knight from Star Wars, but we need to use this power for good. We have a responsibility here. Though I am the first to advocate for savvy marketing and gaining market share, I do think we need to ask ourselves “at what cost?”

How do you as a business leader reconcile a company’s right to sell its products and the desire to do it ethically without exploiting anyone — especially a child? Some experts point to child obesity, unhealthy body images and other societal maladies and lay the blame at our collective feet. Are we to blame?

This is a weighty and important issue that we as marketers should not ignore. Let me know what you think about this topic and I’ll share some of your thoughts in a future column.

Drew McLellan is Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group and the author of “99.3 Random Acts of Marketing.” He can be reached at Drew@MclellanMarketing.com.

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