Catch ‘em young. Says Aheibam Prahlad, an indulgent observer & Copy Grp Head, L&K delhi

My son doesn’t know how to read ABC. He can’t count up to 20. That is because he hasn’t started learning them. He attends a play group alright but all that they do there is eat, pray and be loved when they are not singing and playing in the ball pool or the slides.

The fact that he doesn’t know ABC doesn’t mean he can’t read! Flash a bar of chocolate in front of him and he’ll scream Cadbury.  It’s not that he calls every chocolate by that name. He knows the difference when you tease him with a Nestle bar or an M&M’s pack. It was when he started asking for “Kellogg’s Cornflakes” when I realised that it’s wrong to presume that the entire half of your advertising money goes waste. Seriously speaking, we don’t know many media planners who include kids who are below three years of age as their TA. But look at him, he is not even 3 now and yet he has already bought into the brand Kellogg’s. And so many other brands for that matter.

This is not an isolated phenomenon, if I may call so. Kids these days are not like us when we were kids. They are exposed to more brands. Because they are exposed to more brands, they know about more brands and they seem to develop a point of view on the brands quite early in life. The other day, I was waiting for my turn at the Lilliput billing counter and our little guy ran away only to come back a couple of minutes later with a shirt he has chosen for himself. It had Thomas the train on it. He threw it in the shopping basket and I didn’t stop him because I knew clearly it was a message he was sending out for me to read, “Well, you know in a couple of months I’m gonna be 3 and it’s high time I started choosing my own shirt. You are not gonna stop me or anything, are you?” Raising kids in this time of consumerism is going to be anything but easy.

I know kids universally have been crying to their parents for toys or ice creams for centuries now. But I seriously suspect it is with more vigour that they do these days. I see more and more kids stiffening their bodies in front of toy stores in the malls or sitting down all of a sudden in front of Baskin Robbins or thumping their feet in front of McDonald’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first words the kids learn these days are not “mama” or “papa” but “Happy Meal”, “Disneyland” or “Mee Mee” (a brand that specializes in merchandise for toddlers).

Thanks to the advertisers, the chances of kids throwing back a toy at you is now at the highest since humankind invented what they decided to call ‘toys’. Especially if you give them any other stuffed toy other than Mickey Mouse, any other doll other than a Barbie or any other toy soldier other than GI Joe. We recently read about top advertisers in the country coming to an agreement about ethical advertising to kids. I’d like to believe they just made another rule to be broken.

It’s not that the brands are doing a lot of harm to kids. But my fear is partly rooted to the fact that he might ask for something way beyond my reach. You’d realize that my fear is not totally without reason.

Consider this, he now identifies more than 20 automobile brands and knows which ones are the most widely seen and which ones are the rarest. Don’t be surprised if you show him the car with the diamond logo and him saying Renault, with the letters L and T being silent. At the rate it is going now, it won’t be long before he starts asking me to dump my car for a BMW or worse even an Aston Martin, because he feels embarrassed to be driven in a car meant for the mass and not the class!!!!!

Like I mentioned earlier, it isn’t easy to raise them at this time of consumerism.  I realize now because I also play a part in it, what the advertisers are doing these days is really “catching ’em kids young”. And I am not on a horse!

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10 Comments

  1. @Aloka @Anbuchezhian @Natasha Thanks. It indeed baffles us how quickly they learn and learn about things we never imagine they will. So I guess we need to constantly upgrade ourselves to understand them and also to be in the business of making brands relevant to our TG (these little people are playing a considerably major role in the purchase decision process across the world).

  2. loved this article can relate to it more since my son who is not even two clearly demands maggi or bournvita for that matter! he also has his preferred crocs and wants to wear his zoo zoo t-shirt! amazing how things have changed!

  3. Brands can also look at this opportunity just not to push their products but also see it as an opportunity to engage with the children and make them more responsible. And somewhere in categories like banking we see this already happening…. yes the reality is children are getting choosy,brand savvy etc but how do brands channelize these and make them more responsible and not just live in the times. As long as i am able to convince them or influence them I am happy….. :)

  4. Natasha Mistry |

    Aaha. Nice read Aheibam. Kids are dangerous. They have a consumerist mentality even before they desire ownership. I know a little girl who is very particular about the dress she wears when she is meeting a little boy in the building. And decides the colour when she is going to the park. Many more stories am sure for a 2 year old. Imagine how the digital age will swamp them. Virtual friends maybe?

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