Marketing Principles and Buyer Behavior
The central idea of marketing is the ability to sense the needs and desires of customers and then provide them with product or service that could satisfy those needs. However, this basic philosophy of marketing has often misled by practitioners into the art of making money by inducing the sense of need over a certain product or service to consumer’s mind.
Discussions about ethics in marketing have grown to various fields of business and marketing media. Within this paper, we are discussing the practice of targeting children in marketing efforts and their ethical boundaries.
Recently, a well-known sports brand has developed a promotional campaign targeting children. The marketing campaign is intended to sell sport products and food for children of school age. It advertises the products to appeal children through various media. The marketing campaign targets public and private schools as consumers of the products and provides them with regular offers and membership facilities (Aidman, 1995).
The mentioned company that markets to school is Sainsbury’s plc. The Sainsbury’s Active Kids program (http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/activekids/active_kids_home_v2.htm) has attracted over 30,000 and has collected more than over 310 million vouchers.
The marketing program like Sainsbury’s Active Kids is just one example of marketing effort that target children to gain increased revenue. Within this paper, we will further discuss about practices of marketing to children and their ethical boundaries, whether they are in the form of existing guidelines or merely studies and discussions.
II. Reasons Advertise to Children
The science of marketing has years of experience to develop concepts and marketing tricks that actually increase sales. It incorporates disciplines such as psychology, behavioral science, and other branches of science that relate to human behavior.
Unfortunately, due to the increasing pressure of business competition, organizations within this modern age often put too much burden to their marketing teams in their effort of increasing sales numbers. Thus the marketing concept developed with less and less ethical consideration inside it. Marketing teams uses the science of psychology and others to gain advantage in their marketing endeavors (Lamont, 1996).
II.1 Affecting Parent’s buying decision: Children as the Influencers
Through the science of psychology and human behavior, marketers discovered that, despite their lack of income, children have powerful influence toward customer’s buying decisions. Studies revealed that most of the parent’s buying decision has correlation to the needs or the wants of their children. Some even witness the child choosing the car in the showroom. Furthermore, there is a strong tendency that parents put their child’s needs over themselves.
Researches revealed that children influence their parents’ buying decision that worth approximately $ 165 billion a year on electrical appliances, furniture, vacations, family vehicle, etc. A study indicated that children influenced car sales that amounted to $ 9 billion in 1994.
II.2 Future Consumers
Psychological research also indicated that memories ingrained within our minds while we were young affected our lives significantly. Children have highly vulnerable minds. They are still in the stage of self-identification, where they strive to understand what they must believe. Their minds are easily accessed and altered. What they saw in TV’s or newspapers will significantly influence their future tastes and preferences.
In other words, our tastes and preferences are largely influenced by what we saw or hear as children. Marketers have understand that obtaining a child as your customer for a period of time could mean having him/her as customers for years later (Fischer 1991).
III.3 Children as little Customers
In this era of internet and telephone shopping, kids themselves are little consumers. First, they represent a significant portion of the population itself, nearly 8% of all US residents and estimated to account for 24% of the population in 2020 (Alexander, n.d). In the United States, over 57 million school age children and teenagers spent $100 billion each year of their guardian’s money on sweets, food, drinks, toys, games, movies, sports, clothes and shoes.
In America, a child wakes up in his cartoon network character pajamas, rolls out his Disney sheets and went to the bathroom where his branded toothbrush, toothpaste and soap awaits. Furthermore, Children under the age of 13 spent $11billion of their own allowance annually. In 2006, this estimation increases to $ 52 billion (Thomas, 1997).
If there is s question on how the numbers get to be so big, then the answer is right there along with the advancement of technology. Studies revealed that television viewing is universal among children. 98% of children in the age of 4-6 in America watch TV. 61% of children in US have TV in their bedroom.
Approximately, children in America watch 55 TV commercials per day. Furthermore, futurists expect internet to be the next important media that will replace TV in the near future. They estimated that about 57% of children by the age of 11 or younger will be online.
Today, kids are already savvy internet users. About 45% of the group aged 7-12 are already online about four times a week. Furthermore, 20% of that age group accesses the internet in daily basis. Statistics indicated that 17% of kids have in America has computers inside their bedroom and 2 million people aged 6 to 17 in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Miami have their own websites.
III. Current Practice of the Marketing Campaigns
III.1 Fighting a $ 2 Billion Industry
Many years ago, life was simpler for parents who do not want to get their kids into the consumerism culture. They simply reduce the frequency of watching TV for their child. However, today, it is a whole lot harder for parents to protect their kids because the previously $ 100 million per year marketing industry had turn to $ 2 billion a year and growing. Parent would have a hard time standing alone fighting a $ 2 billion dollar industry (Powell, 1993).
Marketers today have a program that measures humans in terms of their lifelong consuming value. They estimated that a single person could deliver $100,000 for the company. In order to achieve or exceed that target, companies perform a marketing program that aim to get a lifetime loyalty from each customer. One of the most effective ways to do that is by influencing people’s mind while they are young.
III.2 Forms of Marketing Efforts toward Children
There are various types of marketing practices that targeted children as a consumer. It could be as simple as running space ads in parenting magazines, renting children’s catalog lists and participating in affiliate marketing programs with family-oriented websites. Analysts will then analyze the data to figure out how best to generate the desired response form the children.
In America, schoolhouse has been the biggest advertisement space of all. Several TV channels are provided free to school in exchange of the promise that the students will watch many commercials, fast-food franchisers take over cafetarias, hallways, poster and book covers as their own personal billboards (Mizerski, 1995).
III.2.1 Television and their Marketing Network
If there is a single media that would be marketers’ best friend, it would be television. Research indicated that by the time most US children start school, they will have spent 5000 hours watching television. They spend more time watching television than they spend in class for their entire schooling.
Since 1988, 64% of television toy advertisements were related to children television program. Cartoon characters are displayed as movies, followed by television series and then be merchandised on numerous products from t-shirts to toys.
For example, a simple line of promotion for Disney is as follows: the Disney promotes the consumer products which promote the theme parks which promote the television shows and then the television show promotes the company (Emerson, 2005).
If television is the largest advertising arena at the present, then internet is the most potential advertisement arena of the future. Today, it is estimated that 4 million children are using the internet and the number is considered to increase dramatically. Even at the age of four, children has been the target of corporate marketing effort. Some believed that marketing to children through internet has a slightly higher level of influence because children’s attention to the internet is not mediated by parents or teachers (Fitzgerald, 1996).
Many advertisers cleverly ask children to fill surveys before playing internet games, in order to obtain their personal profile regarding purchasing behavior, preferences and information of other family members. Preadolescent children generally do not have the comprehension of personal information and what they point up to. A research observing children web sites discovered that 90% of the sites are collecting personal information from children and offer incentives like free gifts.
II.2.3 Other Popular Forms of Advertisement to Children
Other marketing effort that targets children come in the form of sales promotions like direct coupons, free gifts and samples, contest and sweepstakes. Companies also used public relations such as using celebrities and licensed characters which visit shopping centers and school. Marketing in schools is also a part of marketing effort that aims children.
For example, kids club, which organized by retailers, media outlets and producers also offer opportunities to get information about children for marketing purposes. As competition grows to a more intimidating level, those ‘ethically doubtful’ marketing processes are expected to grow significantly during the next decade.
IV. Discussions and Recommendations
IV.1 Ethical Discussion on Marketing to Children
Psychologists all around the country have their share of discussion regarding this subject. Many address the subject in anger, stating that there should be legal regulations to limit the extent of marketing allowed, due to the uncontrolled behavior that threaten to poison young people with consumerism.
Despite various articles and studies in addressing this issue, little has been done to create such legislation that protects children from the consumerism behavior. Within this chapter I will describe the effects of marketing to children and how psychologist views them in various perspectives.
IV.1.1 Effects of Marketing to Children
Psychologist says a psychological research performed by retailers is used to gain profit rather than to help children. If ask what they want to do when they grew up, children in earlier days would likely answers nurse, astronauts or some other occupation with intrinsic values.
However, the popular answer from children today is ‘to make money’ (Clay, 2000). This is the result of years of being bombarded with ads telling them what they ‘really need’ and what they ‘really want’.
Before reaching a certain age, children would have not control upon what they should insert to their fragile minds and what should not. Ads designed to invite children into wanting certain products and services uses children’s heroes to lead them into buying. Several psychiatrists stated that the process is called ‘narcissistic wounding’. It is a process of convincing children to feel inferior if they do not have the products offered by marketers.
In an official letter sent to Washington DC by the APA, Psychologists stated that marketers abused the knowledge e of psychology and human behavior in the manner that is considered of proportion. Furthermore, the letter urges the government to:
§ Issue a formal statement denouncing the use of psychological principles in marketing to children
§ Legalized APA Ethics Code to restrain the use of psychological knowledge to observe, study, mislead or exploit children for commercial purposes.
§ Investigate the use of psychological research in marketing to children and promote strategies to protect children against commercial exploitation
IV.1.2 Libertarians and Abolitionist
Regarding the effects of marketing to children as stated above, public perspective can be divided into two extreme sides, the Libertarians and Abolitionist. Libertarians are those who believed that marketing is shaped by the society and not the other way around.
Thus, marketers are not to blame in the case of unethical behaviors. They believe that economic profit should be the sole concern of business entities and the quest for morale and equality should be handled by government by means of regulations.
On the other hand, abolitionist is the reverse polarity of libertarians. These people believe that the human soul should be free from greed and materialism. They see obsession of consumption as an illness and they grieve to the sight of society that replaces being with having. These people harshly disagree to marketing efforts that targeted children wishes to obtain additional profit from them.
IV.1.3 Report from Consumers Union
The in-school advertising comes in many ways as a result of demand and supply. The demand side is from school and teachers who experience shortage of money to fund learning materials and the supply of companies that target kids as new revenue well.
Concerning the issue, Carol Herman, Vice President of Grey Advertising says ’It isn’t enough to just advertise on television…. You’ve got to reach kids throughout their day–in school, as they’re shopping in the mall …” The remarks suggest that advertiser continues finding ways to penetrate market aggressively to win a market (Consumers Union, 2006).
The result of such demand and supply is the free learning materials from companies with some logos and company profiles at the end of the books or in other materials. The situation causes a school to be a retailer since there are many brands in classes. Table 1 shows an example of in-school advertising in the form of teaching material.
Table 1 Example of Corporate-sponsored Teaching Materials
Polaroid Education Program
· Schools become new media for Polaroid to advertise although they teach about “A visual approach to teaching basic skills”
High. Polaroid require to 10 proofs of film purchase for the camera in the class
Kodak provide Corkers (bulletin board ideas) ; Teaching Tips
Low. Kodak never mention or require to use Kodak products
Source: (Consumers Union, 2006)
The situation suggests that it is unethical to perform in-school advertising since the objective of the advertising is merely to explore the children market and encourage children to be influencers in their family.
In addition, Children at age 8 to 14 are not ready to say “No, I don’t need or want that product” since corporate-sponsored materials like provided by Polaroid and Kodak are unlikely to teach such lessons. In fact, they encourage children to use their products more often.
IV.1.4 Classical Conditioning
Classical conditioning refers to the idea that perceptions can be triggered by several conditioning that human experience (SBB, 1996). For example, if a human or a kid watches a toys advertising, he asks his parents to buy the toys and the parents buy the toys, the next time he see any advertising, and he will have perceptions that his parents will bring him the toys. After several times there will short course in which the kid will perceive following conditions:
Toys Advertising ———————> Having the Toys (Parents buy them)
Unconditioned Stimulus —> Unconditioned Response
Based on this theory, it is dangerous, if consumers like Nike continue bombarding children with advertising since they will attain consumerism. It is quite similar to the idea that Nike sponsors the provision of equipment at schools since later at homes, the children will ask their parents to buy similar Nike equipments.
IV.2.1 Choice between Two Extremes
In respect of the two polar of perspectives above, we who live in the modern community must choose between the two extremes. It is often serves as a dilemma to one who sincerely provided the chance to think about it. If we to choose the libertarians’ road, then we would be trapped in a world where materialism matters more than any other values in human realms. It would be like sacrificing every ounce of self-respect and compassion to the demons of commercialism. On the other hand, if we are to choose purity and the abolitionist way, then we would face the risk of ruin our livelihood (‘The Ethics’, 2006).
An article from the psychologist society indicated revealed the possible solution. The article stated three choices of consumers. These three types of consumers represent the type in which we desire our child to be. Do we want our child to be docile consumers? do we want our child to be non-consumers? Or do we want them to be aware consumers? The first choice represents the fact that we are libertarians, the second choice represents the road of abolitionist and the third choice represents the choice in the middle (‘The Ethics’, 2006).
In the parents’ side, the article stated that children should not be forbidden to watch any commercial because it would separate them from their environment. It is better to perform control mechanism by accompanying children when they are watching TV in order to provide them with the necessary understanding to counter the negative impact of the commercials (Zoll, 2000).
In the marketers’ side, ethical marketing means to create communities that are aware of their product, without changing them into obsessive collectors. Thus, the marketing campaigns that are allowed are those providing information to children about the products and services provided, without making them feel inferior if they cannot purchase it.
IV.2.2 Government Regulations
Governments from modern countries have taken variety of actions in response to the marketing to children issue. European countries have placed restriction on television commercials targeting kids. Canada has also placed guidelines that specifically address marketing to children issues. Ironically, America is the largest country without apparent regulations that controlled marketing to children. Reviewing the concerns revealed above, we should formulate a guideline that includes the following:
§ Acknowledgement that marketing to children imposes s special responsibility on marketers.
§ Acknowledgement that children are not adults and thus not all marketing techniques are appropriate for children.
§ Restrictions that forbids marketers to exploit children’s credulity, lack of experience or sense of loyalty.
§ The use of appropriate language to address children
§ Restrictions that forbids marketers to accept orders without parental approval
§ Restrictions that forbids marketers to pressure a child to urge their parents to buy a product or service.
IV.2.3 Ethical Consideration
After evaluating the ethical consideration of in-school advertising like performed by Sainsbury’s plc and two example in the table 1 –Polaroid and Kodak- we suggest that the made up sports brands must not perform in-school advertising since they can be viewed as merely to explore consumerism in children.
If they intend to advertise and market to children, it is much better that they create programs that encourage the children to come to the company’s outlets, restaurant or venues so that they can advertise the children.
The picture 1 is example of unethical advertising that encourage children to be big spenders instead of teach them to manage their money for the benefits of their future.
Figure 1 Example of advertising that is Unethical
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