The Branding Battleground

Last night my daughter and I went to the hardware store to get some drywall anchors. Earlier that evening she had been literally swinging from the drapes in the front room and managed to pull one of the curtain rods down on her head. Daddy was of course watching the football game. After checking to make sure she was all right and giving her the proper scolding about how the living room was not a jungle gym we set about to repair the damage.

Spackling the holes was about a 30 second job. Spackle is one of those items that is always handy to have around, whether you are a college student or the parent of a 3 year old, having a can of this wonder paste around the house is a must.

Once the spackle dried and my team was well on its way to winning the game, we headed out to the hardware store for some much needed heavy duty drywall anchors.

There are many places that I try to avoid in Wal-mart and Target because my wife and I are trying to make an attempt at raising a brand-free child. We have intentionally made a choice to limit the amount of branding and advertising that she is exposed to. I really didn’t think that I would need to start avoiding certain sections of the hardware store as well. But last night I realized that even in Man’s Sacred Cave of Wonders, certain aisles are to be avoided at all costs.

I swear my daughter can pick out a Cinderella or Dora character from a mile away, it’s like it’s her secret super-power. Walking down one of the aisles to the restroom I got hit with a “Wait, Daddy look at that, it’s so beautiful!” What she was referring to was a package of Disney Princess wall stickers.

There’s a double whammy – Disney princesses and stickers together! Two things that my daughter absolutely loves.

Then I really started looking around, and I realized that as parents we are subjected to branding from advertisers at every turn.

Colleen Kimmet recently wrote an article about Raising a Brand-Free Kid. In it she talks about the constant battle we as parents face dealing with marketers.

Parents as sitting ducks

All the parents interviewed said they feel targeted by advertisers, and indeed, the desire to make one’s child happy is a powerful marketing tool.

Verbrugge, who used to work as a consultant on projects related to children’s online activities, says she attended many marketing conferences as part of her job.

“It taught me how sophisticated marketers are in reaching people, and more and more how integrated marketing is in everything we see and do,” she says.

“I think we’re seen as consumers…how much wallet share do kids have, and how much can they influence our spending.”

The article also talks about a book that I am going to have to check out from the local library:

In her book Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds, Susan Gregory Thomas explores the widespread and controversial phenomenon of using spokes-characters in advertising to young children.

I thought that this quote was particular poignant:

The retired Grade 1 teacher says he regularly saw different trends and fads sweep through the school, but in his own class and home he tried to encourage individuality.

“While it lines the pockets of large corporations, branding undermines creativity and choices, in a sense,” he says.

“[Diversity] encourages the capacity to create something different.”

But at the end of the day, as the article points out, just like living organically, buying from sustainable resources, limiting processed foods and living the values you want and that you want your kids to have, it’s really all about making that conscious choice to do what you believe is best. And sometimes what’s best leaves you with a sobbing child who may never thank you for making that decision to walk away from the 2 foot tall Disney Princess wall stickers.

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