Everywhere you look, from the social media sphere to other advertising platforms, you see companies marketing to a younger and younger demographic.
The logic is, of course, self-evident; kids influence what their parents buy more than almost any other factor. In fact, most cartoons nowadays are little more than toy advertisements, with plot and substance thrown in as afterthoughts.
The Reality of the Youth Marketing Debate
Of course, what might at first seem like a scathing review of marketing efforts to the young, should in reality be backed by evidence. While some studies show that alcohol promotion, for example, is reaching too many underage people and influencing their behavior, there are also some perhaps counter-intuitive results.
It would seem that the biggest credit risks would be eager young spenders right out of high school. In fact, a particular lending provision in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 was meant to restrict credit card applications from people under the age of 21.
However, this poorly-researched attempt ignored the fact that the young people it was trying to restrict actually proved to be better credit risks over the long term. It seemed to be a case of policy falling victim to preconception, instead of research. It turns out that although young credit card holders did make mistakes, they also learned from them and gained an understanding of the value of good credit that would aid them greatly later in life. If you’re a bit older and already have many financial responsibilities, you often don’t get to ride this learning curve, make mistakes, and get to learn from those credit-related mistakes.
Revisiting the Youth Marketing Assumption
If you take another look at toy commercials masquerading as cartoons and pitching the newest action figure to your child, it becomes clear that there’s a bit of “natural selection” going on. The cartoons may be there to show off new toys, but if they aren’t any good, then their ratings go down as your kids change the channel. As such, you end up with better and better programs, which prove that you can market to the young as well as entertain and educate them. There probably isn’t a hard-and-fast age at which you shouldn’t market to youth; it’s in any company’s best interest to produce viable content, if they wish to have any staying power.
Although the general trend of a cultural natural selection will eventually weed out some forms of advertising that provide little substance to the young viewer, this doesn’t mean you should let your guard down and trust in so intangible a “rule.” After all, consider the youth exposure to alcohol and cigarettes that is so often deemed cool.
There’s little doubt, for example, that underage alcohol consumption is deleterious to teenagers, and smoking is even worse; yet, data compiled by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at John Hopkins University signals record highs in the amount of specifically youth-targeted advertising of such products. The deleterious health results are simply undeniable – it leads to greater likelihood of alcoholism, car wrecks, anger management issues, and more.
Youth Marketing’s Future
Navigating this forest becomes easier when you realize there’s an answer to every situation; you can’t make a blanket statement about marketing to youths – it fully depends on what you’re marketing. The newest chic clothing style, toys, video games and music devices should be marketed to the young, where the best ones will likely be singled out and adopted as the faces of each new generation. On the other hand, there are also some things that should definitely not be marketed to the young.
Research is often readily available on these no-no’s, and greater steps should be taken nationwide to curtail advertisers attempts to start our youth off early on things that are shown to be detrimental to their health and well-being; and in the case of alcohol-related driving, the well-being of those around them. To help your business even more, you should find advertising agencies that can help you through these questions and dilemmas.