The whining of a child had me turn my head towards a boy, barely 5 years old – lying on his back –erratically flinging his four limbs on the floor. The drama was going on in a supermarket. He was accompanied by two miserable creatures, undoubtedly his parents who were standing by his side and trying to woo him to get up on his legs. After a little tetchy crabby scene by all the characters, Mama finally scooped up the Spiderman toy from the store shelf and shoved it into their trolley. Peace, thus prevailed.
How many times have you witnessed or experienced the same tug-of-war between a child’s relentless persuasion and a parent’s grounded reasoning?
Who won? The little boy? No. The winning trophy belonged to an invisible team of experienced marketing strategists and product designers behind that querulous child’s persuasion. Dr. Dan Cook, Faculty of Advertising and Sociology at the University of Illinois, describes it in the following words:
It is the sound of thousands of hours of market research, of an immense coordination of people, ideas and resources, of decades of social and economic change all rolled into a single, ‘Mommy, pleeease!’
I am no exception. On my daughter’s birthday I bought balloons which had Frozen movie motifs. She wore Elsa’s gown. The cake too had ice flakes and glitters and all pretty shades of blue. But let me bare my heart. I worry a lot about this growing trend that is luring our children into consumerism, leveraging the attachments they have for their favorite cartoons. We casually praise the birthday girl’s dress and admire the twinkle in her tiara. That’s where I worry. Let me explain myself.
I worry that those praises showered on her because of her dress and the crown should not corner her to believe that she is nothing if that crown and dress are taken away. Or on certain occasions my daughter eyes somebody’s toy and pesters me to buy that over expensive toy which is beyond my budget. Isn’t an atmosphere of greed, peer pressure, jealousy and unnecessary spending brewing up? And aren’t we all playing our bits?
Children develop attachments for their favorite cartoon characters, providing marketers a convenient and stealthy way into our purses.
Warner Bros has tied up with about 20 companies in India including retailers such as Tata group, Trent and Primus Retail for selling merchandises of cartoon characters including Batman, Superman, Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. (Source: Financial Express).
Consider this: Cartoons are on school bags, tiffin boxes, in video games, on blankets – they are everywhere. Cartoons are selling everything to kids who are being tempted towards junk and unhealthy food by using these cartoon character as baits.
How can we raise our children as conscious buyers ?
Let’s tackle this question in two parts
I: The Finance: saving, recycling and conscious buying
II: The Psychology: Things we buy do not define us!
Though many of them will sound too familiar because they are typical Indian style of parenting and many of us were reared on these knacks of ‘great Indian moms’.
- Buy them a piggy bank.
- Give them pocket money.
- Tell them to save ‘now’ to buy something better in ‘future’.
- Tell them ‘all that glitters is not gold’. Their favorite cartoon motif does not ensure quality of the product.
- Tell them about the traps of advertisements.
- Tell them we should ‘buy what we need not what we desire’.
- Tell them to make decisions between ‘make’ or ‘buy’.
- Involve them in the discussions of house budgeting and spending.
- Let them make their buying decision but in a controlled way help them weigh the features, utility and price.
- Let them understand the need of recycling and value of refraining from wastage.
- Instill confidence in them by endorsing their good behavior. Put good behavior over branded clothes.
- Let them discover their talent and let them take pride in that. Let them wear it as their identity.
- Stop them from comparing their things with their peers. Reason out the utility and durability of those things.
- Tell them what stays is one’s talent and character.
- Tell them about the perils of following the herd.
- Tell them to follow what’s right even if they have to walk alone.
- Give them examples from the lives of people who made it big with their hard work and surely the brands they had no hand in their success.
- Be with them, handhold them through their childhood & adolescence lest they give into peer pressure.
- Remember, no present can substitute your presence.
- Talk and talk with your kids but make sure you walk the talk first.