Marketing and the Fight for Our Children

Many of you may have seen this article printed on Chris’s personal web site. We liked it and thought it relevant to recent posts, and so we’re reprinting it here. Please free to add your comments.

I’d like to share with you three things that show how corporate marketing is targeting our young people in a way that is extremely damaging. The third of these makes me furious.

First there is this video for Avicii’s excellent song Wake Me Up. In it, a beautiful woman and her younger but equally beautiful sister (I assume) live in a town full of ugly people. The beautiful people are scared by the ugly people who stare meanly at them. “Why don’t they like us?” says the little girl.

“Because they aren’t beautiful and cool like we are” say the woman. No she doesn’t. Of course she doesn’t. Because marketing tries not to make statements. Marketing implies.

Luckily, the two beautiful ladies discover that all the beautiful and cool people are at an Avicii concert in the next town. They move there, and are happy. The ugly people, meanwhile, continue to stare and glare, resigned to their terrible fate of being uncool.

Incidentally, Avicii has his own range of clothing for sale. The video has had over 240m YouTube views.

Now, look at this amazing video which shows how pictures of beautiful people are really made. This is what goes on all day every day. These are the images that are targeted at us, and at our children. And especially at teenage girls. (Thanks to Pete Matthew for bringing this to my attention)

And finally, my 13 year old daughter bought a new school bag on Amazon. As anyone who has bought anything from Amazon will know, when you make a purchase they fire at you a host of other products that you might be interested in. Now, I don’t know how these things work, presumably there are algorithms which link one product with another. But I’m also guessing that you can pay Amazon for your product to feature more heavily than if it relied on algorithms alone.

So what did Amazon suggest my 13 year old daughter might be interested in? A selection of four different slimming and workout DVDs.

These three insights into marketing are not unconnected. Marketing sells aspiration. And sometimes that aspiration needs a little encouragement. We all aspire to be more beautiful, don’t we? To be slimmer. To be cooler. To be with the hip crowd.

It’s easy for a 46 year old man to reject these suggestions, but less so for a 13 year old girl who is trying to find her place in the world. Which is why they target her, not me.

Incidentally, my daughter thinks I am being stupid. She just likes the song, and doesn’t think anyone is deliberately trying to sell her clothes, or that the video has a message. As I say, marketing implies, it doesn’t make statements.

I want to end this blog with a ‘what can be done’ type message, but I don’t know. This is too big. It’s become part of our culture. I guess we can just try and recognise when this message is being shoved at us and reject it. Talk to our teenagers. Help them understand how they are being targeted. Fight back with knowledge.