The book " The Commercialized Child and the NewConsumer Culture" was authored by Juliet Schor. Notably, Schoris a professor of sociology at the Boston College, and also theauthor of other books such as "The Overworked American,"and "The Overspent American." She trained in finances andis a renowned expert in economics, family studies, and consumerism.The research for her book, "," started back inthe year 2001 during, which she participated in a program run by theAdvertising Education Foundation. During this period, Schor visitedvarious advertising agencies where she conducted numerous interviewswith professionals in the advertising field to gather the necessaryinformation that was later used to develop her book.
The book examineshow different companies advertise to children, the changes inmarketing to teenagers over the years, and the impact it has on them.To piece her facts, Schor surveyed 300 fifth and sixth-grade childrento establish their level of involvement in consumer culture. Throughthe chapters, the book highlights the history of the Americanconsumer society, the content of various commercial messages, and theinfiltration of advertising in everyday lives and through schools. Inthis regard, the study confirms that America is one of the topsconsumer-oriented societies in the world and advertising is found inmost social institutions as well as social space. Incidentally, Schornotes that a majority of companies that produce, market, andadvertise consumer products have shifted their focus to children,hence making them develop passionate desires, and firmly attracted toparticular goods, brands, and latest trends in the world. Schor (9)notes that children are currently the core of American consumerculture and aggressive marketers have designed various marketingstrategies to sell their products to such teenagers. Marketers haveapplied marketing of cool, age compression, trans-toying, dualmessaging, and nag-factor strategies to market to children, and assuch have increased the sales for various consumer product companiesand in the process exposed children to various dangers.
The marketers apply the marketing of cool strategy to ignite a desirefor social acceptance among children, thus pushes their parents topurchase a particular product. “Marketers havedefined cool as the key to social success, as what matters fordetermining whobelongs, who’s popular, and who gets accepted by peers” (Schor78). In this case, a child’s willingness and desire to achievesocial acceptance among peers motivates him or her to purchase coolproducts offered in the market. The strategy has changed the child`sconsumer world from domination with cheaper goods such a penny,candy, plastic toy, or cheap thrills among others, to a marketsubjugated by cool products regardless of the prices. Moreover,marketing of cool strategy has changed tastes, preferences, andconsumer culture of children over the years due to access to muchmoney, status, and underlying values of inequality and exclusion.“Now that kids have access to so much more money, status andits underlying values of inequality and exclusion have settled at theheart of the kid consumer culture” (Schor 79). The social changesmake marketing of cool marketing strategy to work well with childrenwho constantly develop the yearning to own products that their peersdo not, and in this regard, makes them feel special. Consequently,the approach has improved the marketing of various consumer productssince once a child purchases one cool item, the desire to own anotherone sparks, hence increasing the sales of that particular product.For instance, Schor 79 maintains that the Reebok`s introduction ofits computerized Traxtar shoe, it relied on this marketing strategyof the cool to increase the sale of their products, even though ithad higher prices in comparison to goods in the same category.
Age compression isone of the most recent marketing strategies applied by many companiesto target children with their products. “One of the hottest trendsin youth marketing is age compression—the practice of takingproducts and marketing messages originally designed for older kidsand targeting them to younger ones” (Schor 91). In this context,marketers use messages initially meant for older kids to target theyounger ones. In this regard, age compression strategy involvesoffering the product targeted towards children in a way that does nottarget them. For instance, such marketing corporations may advertisegoods previously unbranded among kids to reach them and influencetheir desire to purchase unique merchandise when they attain acertain age allowed to consume a given product. Similarly, it isapparent that that age compression is driven by the knowledge thatmany children watch television around the globe. “It’s beingdriven by the recognition that many children nationwide arewatching MTV and other teen and adult programming” (Schor 91).Age compressing strategy is always applied through specifictelevision programs that are precisely designed for children butfeature various commercials. The approach works better since themajority of children currently watch television hence can beaccessed through such platforms (Common Sense Media 5). Although agecompression has promoted the sale of various consumer productstargeted to children, it has significantly complicated their behaviorsince they are exposed to excess adult contents through adverts thatfeature in programs meant for kids. The strategy makes teenagers betweened, hence allows marketers to introduce more expensive andlucrative products to such kids. Consequently, Schor (41) observesthat with the children increased purchasing power, the strategy oftencause explosion youth spending.
Markerscurrently use trans-toying strategies to reach children to takeeveryday items, which they later transform into playthings alsoreferred to as trans-toys. “I know, given all the stuff kids havethese days—trans-toying is hot” (Schor 104), the vendorshave tried to transform most of the products consumed daily intothings that kids can play with. A majority of such products areadequately advertised to children through advertising and marketingmessages passed through various media platforms (Common Sense Media5). Correspondingly, Schor (104) observes that advertisers usecustomized advertising and marketing messages aimed to triggerchildren`s inner psychological needs and states hence attracting themto purchase such products. Common Sense Media (7) further clarifiesthat various advertising and marketing companies apply different waysto advertise to children today. The attempt is much evident insupermarket walkways where packaged goods have the trans-toy strategyto reach the children. “Trans-toying is most noticeable in thesupermarket aisle, where packaged goods companies have gotteningenious in their attempts to turn what we eat into things kidscan play with” (Schor 104). Children development experts assertthat turning various products into playthings can subject youngstersto the danger of failing to appreciate the taste of a good andwholesome food if it is equated to playing. Schor (104) clarifiesthat most advertising and marketing companies use this approach tomakes children believe that the whole purpose of various products isplaying hence takes advantage of the desire of most children to playto market their product. Nonetheless, this approach has enabled themarketers to reach children and make considerable sales.
Marketershave over the decades applied dual messaging strategy to targetchildren as consumers. Dual messaging is applicable when children andtheir parents have different tastes and preferences. “Children, bythe very nature of their position as a group outside adultsociety, have sought out an alternative system of meaningsthrough which they can establish their integrity” (Schor 95). Inthis regard, the strategy depends on the children`s desire to createautonomy and self-defined spaces through their consumption especiallyin food products. Children have made various attempts to establishtheir integrity as a group outside the adult society. Therefore,unlike adults, most kids prefer brightly colored food that pops orfizzes, which appears inedible to the adult group. The strategyapplies to other goods such as toys, apparels, as well as consumerelectronics. Marketers have used this gap in preference to creating apush-pull effect towards the purchase of various products for bothchildren and adults. "Mary Prescott explains thatchildren’s marketing relies on a push-pull approach” (Schor 95).The approach has achieved remarkable success, especially in foodrelated products. However, Schor (100) notes that the policy hasexposed children to various risks, such as addiction and attractionto different products since the approach lures both parents andteenagers equally, hence may fail to scrutinize the consequences ofsuch goods before finally deciding to purchase them for theirchildren.
If all other methods appear ineffective, most advertisers resort tonagging factor marketing tactic where children nag their parents tobuy particular products. “Idell’s study, which is from 1997–1998,created a stir because nagging had become extraordinarily effective”(Schor 101). The approach allows the marketers to reach and selltheir products directly to the children. Likewise, the methodologyenables them to make more sales through increased purchase requestsfrom teenagers. Notably, most child products often exhibit decreasedsales if they do not practically ask for from their parents.Therefore, the marketers apply this tactic to kids` request for suchproducts. The majority of parents often find it appropriate to spendon products that their children like, rather than spending money onwhat they disapprove. “From the parent point of view, buying whatchildren ask for makes good sense. There’s little point inwasting money and time on things they don’t like or will not use”(Schor 102). Similarly, the strategy has adequately made many parentsbelieve that their offspring have more knowledge regarding brandsthey like from various product categories. However, this approachaffects children`s behavior to request goods they do not need henceresults to financial conflicts.
Accordingly,the marketing strategies applied by companies that produce, market,and advertise consumer products are rapidly shifting their focus totarget children as regulars of their products and in this regardsubjects to various forms of danger. Notably, the companies haveresorted to targeting children due to changes in their purchasingculture in the modern society. Unlike in the past, the majority ofbroods have access to much money, status, and underlying values ofinequality and exclusion, hence has increased purchasing power.Therefore, the marketers have designed different strategies to takeadvantage of the expanding children’s market. Advertising companiesuse marketing cool, age compression, trans-toying, dual messaging,and nag factor to appeal for children to purchase various products.Although the policies have increased their sales in different productcategories, such approaches have faced sharp criticism due to thepossible adverse consequences, such methods that can have on theoverall being of children. Behavior such as the explosion of youthspending has become common due to increased marketing targeted tothem. Moreover, such strategies can change children`s consumptionpattern and teen culture hence requires important control mechanismto remain valid.
Common Sense Media. “Advertising to Children and Teens: CurrentPractices.” Common Sense Media Research, 2014. Web.<www.commonsensemedia.org/file/csm-advertisingresearchbrief-20141pdf/downloadmarketing to children pdf>
Schor, Juliet. : The Commercialized Child and theNew Consumer Culture. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.