Marketers have long developed strategies and tactics to turn young children into brand-conscious consumers. Exposed to TV and radio from a young age as well as new digital platforms, kids are fair game for marketers who seek to make brand devotees out of the most susceptible demographics.

According to James McNeal, marketing professor and author of “The Kids Market: Myths and Realities,” most children recognize at least 200 logos by the time they enter school. And 50% of kids age five ask for specific brands by name.

But when it comes to marketing to kids: How young is too young? Recent developments show that marketers are intent on reaching out to an even younger group of potential consumers: newborns and toddlers. This move on the part of even mom-endorsed brands like Disney is bound to get some parental push-back ... although reactions are certain to be wide ranging.

In the article “The Next Great American Consumer” published in Adweek, examples are given of aggressive tactics being used by brands to woo even babies in hospital nurseries.  This is all in an effort to establish brand preferences at the earliest possible age. But are researchers so certain infants and toddlers have enough cognitive development to recognize brand logos?

It all depends on how much exposure kids get to TV and today’s slick digital gadgets. Calming fussy babies down by plopping them in front of a television or computer screen, iPad, or iPhone to view images or downloaded apps featuring Disney, Sesame Street or Nick Jr. characters may act as a surrogate babysitter, but what’s being absorbed? Subtle and not-so-subtle brand messaging? And what are the ramifications?

According to the Adweek piece, BabyFirstTV.com has launched as a new network with content for babies. The network offers videos, games, music, and educational content geared for babies and toddlers. One wonders how much advertising, branded product placement, and games will be embedded in this programming. How much will be absorbed? How influential will it be? Will it increase the "nag factor”? We all know young children are susceptible to advertising.

Want to see some staggering data? Check out the Joan Ganz Cooney Center study, “Always Connected: The new digital media habits of young children.”

Among their findings: 80% of children under 5 years old us the Internet every week. 60% of kids aged three and under watch videos online.



  • Is this too much for very young children? Where should the line be drawn age-wise on exposure to media and advertising?


  • Do you think harm is being done to young children due to an excessive push toward consumerism?


  • What should marketers do in response to pressure from watchdog groups’ push back on marketing to the very young?


  • What should parents do?


I’d love to get input from marketers, parents, educators on this topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.