Getting to work with kids is always a fantastic experience. Kids are far more clever and far more hyper than you’d ever imagine. Every time I get to teach with TEKids, I’m always shocked by something the students say. They know more than just about anybody would give them credit for. The latest TEKids class, “Market’eers,” focuses on, well marketing. What could a second grader possibly have to say about marketing? I’ll tell you, and you know what, it sure got me thinking.
We started off class with snacks, because this is still elementary school and snacks are a must. The class gathered around, and we introduced the topic at hand. We asked the kids what marketing was. Most responded with “selling stuff” which, in short, isn’t a terrible guess for people who rarely if ever use that word in a sentance. We started to explain what marketing was and everything that comes along with “selling stuff,” advertising, image, and sometime networking. We started singing the jingle for everyone’s favourite fast food joint: “do do do do dooo, I’m Lovin’ it.” The children rang out in excitement to tell us who’s jingle that was (which is an interesting thought on its own). We started explaining how that little jingle was marketing. That company doesn’t sell “lovin’ its,” they sell burgers, but the tune is important when it comes to selling those burgers. At that point, a little girl raises her hand. Instead of an ill-timed request for a bathroom break, this time it was much more. She says to us, “Its almost like they are selling the words and not the food.” Those of us teaching shared a quick, “Woah” glance amongst ourselves, emphatically encouraged her thinking, and kept on going (noticing that talking too much about it might get confusing for her other elementary school peers — not that she was much smarter or further ahead — but that she made a fairly noteworthy leap in this particular instance that could possibly take others time to grasp).
Now let’s look at that statement a little bit. I think she’s onto something here. It seems like their marketing company can be focused on jingles and slogans that have nothing to do with the actual product. This type of marketing could mostly likely be called “iconic branding.” Iconic brands are a part of culture (which might explain why a room full of second and third graders knew that jingle so well). Not all iconic branding hits the kids though. Think about those three notes from NBC, I bet you can hear them now. The kids might not recognise that quite as quickly, but I’d still consider that to be iconic. Here is the thing about this type of marketing though: it only works if the company is well-established. If a brand new company selling shoes had a slogan like “lovin it,” it wouldn’t be nearly as successful. They would have to work their way up through good work, fair prices, and good customer service first. That is also a marketing strategy as well. That’s within the realm of relationship marketing, or creating a reliable relationship with customers.
Here’s the thing that I wonder: How much of that marketing is actually for the kids? The Federal Trade Commision reported that in 2006, 44 major food and drink companies spent 2.1 billion dollars on marketing geared towards children. Thats just in the food and drink companies; that doesn’t include toy companies, vacation packages, and the gaming industry. In 2009, the numbers dropped a bit to $1.79, but nearly $1 billion was directed to kids in the 2-11 age group. Why do companies even market to children? Because kids can convince their parents to spend money.
That little girl’s comment made me think a little bit harder on how marketing works, and how much children are influenced by those prime marketing spaces: Saturday morning cartoons, cute little internet games, social media. The point of this Market’eers class is to teach kids how to market, but I hope they can also learn to recognise marketing for what it is, selling stuff.