Marketers are reaching out to the embryo in the mother’s womb to hook it up for lifetime. From baby wear to infant accessories and play stuff, it all awaits the new arrival even before it is born. And that is where the producers are hitting the bull’s eye. Kids spend USD 40 billion annually. Such is their power in the economy. Naturally, everyone is out to get them as often, as early and at as many places as possible to convert them into lifelong consumers.
Some of the tactics that companies exploit and parents must be aware of are as follows:
- Nagging works. Imagine your seven-year-old rolling on the floor of a store, yelling at the top of his lungs for a toy that you have refused him/her. Research shows that such pressures work on parents, who lack determination and want face saving in public. Bluntly, they would rather have the kid shut up than exert proactive parenting. Hence, the reactive measures work. Also, soft and persistent whining and whimpering on the part of kids strikes deals for them, and parents eventually give in a while later.
- TV rules. The top three selling toys are generally the ones that are advertised the most on the television or are associated with some popular cartoon or kids’ show. Naturally, numerous companies have married their name to a myriad of products. They have a ready consumer sitting right before the screen, who would drive his parents all the way to the mall to become the proud owner of one of the paraphernalia on offer.
- Manipulative advertising. Marketing researchers have blink tests for kids. If a child sits through a TV commercial without blinking, it means the advertisers have nailed it. But if they observe him/her to blink in between, it means the quality of the advertisement is not mesmerizing enough. They immediately change the ad. After all, it is their motive is to sell the products.
- Defining culture. Another recent trend has been the cultural shift in consumer choices. The kids’ culture has gone from cheap to upscale. It is stepping into the world of brands. The companies take advantage of the kids’ natural desire to grow up faster and richer. Children’s idols are no longer teachers, astronauts, etc. They are teen idols, movie stars, sports’ icons, etc.
- Emerging lifestyles. Girls’ toys and Barbies tell little girls that the ultimate success is to look beautiful and sexy. What they buy and how they look is very important because this determines their value. Similarly, boys’ games are being brought closer to virtual reality, where violence, power and domination are dished out as entertainment to them. This is how we resolve conflicts, too, by killing and hitting.
- Good media vs. bad media. When some smart parents deciphered the exploitation scheme of these companies, the producers set out another false trap. A popular mantra these days is: “Kids don’t just grow up, they think up” – meaning: get your infant to watch educational videos and surround him with mind stimulating toys to turn him into a genius. And if you do not take the initiative, your kids will surely fall behind. This was another way to appeal to parents’ insecurities. As a result, in the year 2010, USD 7.8 billion worth of educational videos were sold.
- Reality bites. There is no solid scientific evidence that an infant or a toddler, who is introduced to electronic educational material, will be any smarter than the one who is not. In fact, research does confirm the opposite. Kids exposed to early screen time have a poor vocabulary, their ability to learn is hindered, they are caught with attention issues, etc. Their cognitive and social skills have no great leaps as super ambitious parents might want. It only trains the child to watch more TV.
- What does help then? Since the brain is rapidly changing in the first two years of a baby’s life, close family involvement and experiences help it thrive. The baby learns to hear sounds and voices, sights loving faces around him and feels the hugs of parents. Creative play is the foundation of critical thinking, problem solving and empathy. However, with the TV culture, kids are deprived of imagination. They are only learning to imitate. They can’t play a hero, unless they have the entire product range to represent it. In other words, a stick will not work for a sword.
There is a USD 15 million industry working to undermine parental responsibility. Naturally, these companies want to own these kids for life and have a share of their mind. Branded baby paraphernalia begins this journey of cradle to grave brand loyalty. Later, it determines their choice of cereal for breakfast, backpacks used in school, bed sheets spread over their beds and even socks worn for sports.
To many parents, this might seem very trendy or even innocent, but they must understand that while it will soar the company’s profits, it is a sure shot recipe for their children to stay dissatisfied and depressed further in their lives.
Consumerism has connections to satanic thoughts and desires, whereas Zuhd (abstinence from the riches of the world) grants deep peace and liberation to the soul – a soul that is owned only by the Creator (swt) and not by some service/merchandise warehouse planning its next product line and producing lies to sell it.
Be a moderate. It is okay for children to use and wear unpopular and unbranded stuff once in a while, and not worry about their class or image all the time.