Advertising to Children
Assessing Market Strategies, Their Effectiveness and Ethicacy of This Strategy
Children are the largest consumers of online and offline media including mass media in the United States and exert significant influence on household purchases (Hamilton, 2009). Advertising and marketing strategies designed and executed to capture the interest and imagination of children often walk a fine line of ethicacy in the areas of product claims and the health of their young consumers, as has been seen in advertising making alcoholic drinks look like fruit punch (Hastings, Moodie, 2010). Children also become brand loyal quickly and stay loyal to brands over their pre-teen, tween, and teenage years
(Drake-Bridges, Burgess, 2010). Consumer marketers, specifically those in the food and beverage and entertainment industries, rely on this brand loyalty and attempt to synchronize their product and service lifecycles. Many of the more advanced marketing strategic frameworks including the concept of integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategies emanated from best practices in selling into children's markets (Cunningham, 2003). The integration of off-line and online media including social media and social networks, also are being pioneered in marketing strategies targeting the children consumer (Edelman, 2010). The intent of this paper is to evaluate the marketing strategy innovations happening today as business-to-consumer (B2C) companies attempt to gain and keep loyal customers in this market.
Analyzing the Children's Market and Its Implications of Advertising Strategies
Marketers increasingly are relying on advertising that focuses on children to change the purchasing decisions, habits, and preferences of entire families. There is also the focus on children as consumers due to their tendency to become brand loyal relatively early in their lives as consumers and stay committed to brand well into their teenage years and young adulthood (Drake-Bridges, Burgess, 2010). According to studies of the influence of children on purchasing decisions, it has been found they indirectly define 43% of the purchases made by their families (Goodstein, 2007). In addition, 65% of parents regularly ask for their children's opinions on which foods and beverages to purchase (Goodstein, 2007). Most powerful is the finding that a child's brand preferences influence up to 90% of purchases in a home (Goodstein, 2007). The role of children in the family purchasing cycle and process is undeniable, strong, and continually growing over time as they are the primary consumers of off-line and digital media (Hamilton, 2009). This is causing a revolution in digital marketing, as the entire marketing and selling process can be traced online, quantified, analyzed and modified to reflect individual children consumers' preferences (Goodstein, 2007). Marketing has never been more metrically driven or more focused on quantifying the impact of marketing strategies. As a result, there is more known about what children's preferences are by their age, gender, socioeconomic level, city and state they live in (O'Neill, 2006). It is often said that the marketing concept as originally defined by Kotler is now even more precise and accurate as the customer has never been more understood, analyzed and tracked with metrics and measures of interest and purchase online (Cunningham, 2003). Aside from the privacy issues of all this data, there is the emergence of entirely new marketing frameworks and strategies that are being based on insights gained from analyzing children's purchases by product category. Disney's emergence as one of the leading integrated marketing communications (IMC) and multichannel retailers is a direct result of their discovering how influential children are in the entertainment decisions of entire families. McDonald's Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese and scores of other themed restaurants and fast food providers all have built their messaging and marketing strategies entirely around children, as it is estimated they influence the majority of family decisions in this segment as well. The majority of product purchases influenced by children are food and beverages (58%) as shown in Figure 1, Product Purchases Most Heavily Influenced by Children. The decades-only strategy of bundling in toys with children's cereals is specifically meant to drive influence on the food and beverages segment, as has the later inclusion of Club Penguin coupons, co-promotions with Walt Disney and Kellogg's and the development of cereals and food products that capitalized on the popularity of cartoon characters (Sparrmann, 2009).
Figure 1: Product Purchases Most heavily influenced by Children
Sources: (Moore, Rideout, 2007) (Monteiro, Gomes, Cannon, 2010)
The level of analytics has become so precise that it is now possible to understand the factors that influence product involvement among young consumers as well. Specifically the use of which characters, sounds, story lines, and representation of the products all influence product trail and usage on the part of young consumers (Te'eni-Harari, Hornik, 2010). Marketing analytics are also used for redefining children's programming and product placement as part of broad IMC strategies that seek to further underscore and promote brand loyalty (Kelly, Halford, Boyland, et.al, 2010). Product placements have become a dominant part of an overall IMC strategy, creating context and relevance for brands outside traditional and online marketing channels (Nelson, McLeod, 2005).
Analytics have become indispensible in understanding the roles of children in the purchasing process for both their families and themselves. At the age of two for example, market research and analytics experts report that "Pester Purchasing Power" kicks in and the requests of children are voiced with articulation and emotion (Frank, 2009). By age three, a child has the ability to pass on brand requests to parents and also be influenced and influence socialization by their purchases. In other words, they become brand loyal at this age, relating emotion and specific socialization values to a given product or service (Mukhopadhyay, Yeung, 2010). By age five, children have become brand loyal and are often requesting by brand and product name what they want, and by age eight they are making 90% of the purchasing decisions for snacks they want (Monteiro, Gomes, Cannon, 2010) and 43% of all game and toy decisions as well (Li, Mei, Hua, 2010). In short, before a child reaches ten years of age they are an experience consumer and able to differentiate between brands based on their perceptions of relative value and preference. The granularities of focus on children as consumers continues as they mature and reach their teenage years, with girls taking on different value sets and purchasing preferences relative to boys. Researchers studying how girl vs. boy child consumers mature and vary in their preferences attribute the change in purchasing according to product symbolism and context in peer environments (McAlister, Cornwell, 2010).
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Kelly, B., Halford, J., Boyland, E., Chapman, K., Bautista-Castano, I., Berg, C., Caroli, M., Cook, B., Coutinho, J., Effertz, T., Grammatikaki, E., Keller,…