It’s no secret among the CEOs of major corporations: The goal is always to sell, be it a service or product. In order to sell, representatives within the marketing departments of companies clue in to the people who already are or could become customers, tailoring sales messages to promote buying. The target of these campaigns isn’t always adults, so kids need lessons about how marketing works as part of their financial education in order to keep their financial futures bright.
What Marketers Tell Your Child
As a member of a marketing department, a marketing representative really has only one task: get people to spend money. This doesn’t change regardless of what the age of the target market is. Through demonstrations, radio, the Internet and television, marketers tell your child that their company’s product or service is fun, cool or related to being popular in some way. They can do this through one or more of the following techniques:
- Using jokes
- Getting famous people to promote the product
- Making the advertisement full of bright, bold colors or funky text fonts
- Incorporating easy-to-remember slogans
- Putting simple, catchy songs your child already knows or is likely to remember in the ad
- Directly saying that “parents will approve” or a similar variant
- Showing lots of kids together using the product or service
Why Marketers Catch Your Child’s Attention
Marketers are able to reach your child largely because of the way your child’s brain is wired. The brain is designed to respond to emotion first and logic second, building and learning based on the experiences—if the brain didn’t work like this, people couldn’t react quickly enough to get out of dangerous situations. As people get older, they still respond emotionally, but they have enough experience to better rationalize through circumstances and events. Kids, on the other hand, see the marketers’ messages and make the decision to buy or sell based primarily on how the ads make them feel.
Marketing and Your Child’s Financial Status
Children are constantly learning and developing habits. Two habits your child should be learning are saving and making good purchase decisions through product/service comparison. When your child responds to marketing based solely on emotions, these habits become much harder to develop. As a consequence, as an adult, your child might not be able to gain and maintain a secure financial status, putting him in a dangerous cycle of emotional spending and debt.
What You Can Do
Even though marketers try hard to reach your child through tactics that generate a strong emotional response, your child can learn to decode the many advertisements he sees. Talk to your child about the different ways marketers design their messages so kids are likely to respond. Then sit down with your child and review some ads together, having your child identify which tactics he can spot. To go one step further, ask your child why a marketer might use one tactic over another given the specific product or service. For example, a company might use a celebrity as a spokesman for a product they want to market to all kids, simply because most kids want to be like famous people, and because many children from many different backgrounds and ages might know who the celebrity is.