If the Young Turks in your marketing department aren’t delivering
the goods, there could be a very simple explanation. They’re either
still too young to have children of their own, or they obviously haven’t
realised they could save a lot of time and money by first running their
latest half-baked campaign past a pair of passing ten-year-olds.
Like most parents, the discovery that my own offspring can get straight
to the heart of the matter has sometimes proved painful. You’re an
out-of-date yoghurt, announced my eldest at the tender age of seven,
only too aware of my sensitivity at having long passed my sell-by date.
Even more to the point, her younger sister was overheard telling a
friend that, yes, daddy works on the radio, and even if nobody listens
he still gets paid. So there you have it - I can’t recall hearing a
finer definition of public service radio anywhere.
Children and young people are often mistakenly characterised as being
even more fickle and unpredictable consumers than their adult
It is, of course, more that their tastes can change rapidly, so there’s
often little early warning for brand owners that the party is over. For
instance, my two daughters knew that designer trainers had peaked in
Britain months before the likes of Reebok or Adidas appeared to have
spotted that anything was amiss. It all goes to show how risky it is
for, say, the brewers or other fast moving consumer goods companies to
study the drugs culture for ideas and images, which will almost by
definition, be out-of-date yoghurts by the time they reach the
Tapping into the consuming passions of children can be tricky.
Advertising agency Leo Burnett is apparently having considerable success
using the internet to quiz schoolchildren on their likes and dislikes in
food, beverages, footwear and entertainment. The idea has spread here
from the US. Sixty schools in Britain have reportedly been signed up. It
seems twice a year children log on to a special web site and answer a
series of questions. The school is rewarded with computer software and
other incentives or samples.
Burnetts says Kellogg used the system to find out more about breakfast
eating habits, while McVitie’s put its money on Orangey Tangs miniature
dolls after discovering how much kids like collecting.
The fact is that most children love filling in multiple-choice forms
about their tastes. I once found my eldest had spent well over an hour
ploughing through one of those extended consumer surveys - and what’s
more, her responses regarding my own tastes were frighteningly
Some educationalists are worried about creeping commercialism in the
classroom. At this level it seems harmless enough if there is a tangible
benefit for the school or college - far better than the intrusion of
direct sponsorship or brand names on exercise books.
Nigel Cassidy is business correspondent of Radio 4’s Today programme.
This article was first published on Marketing