Creating Generation $: Why the Keen Interest in the Latest Teen Brands and Fashion Trends? Marketing Executives Recognize the Potent Buying Power of a Generation of Youngsters Raised on Computers. (Trends)
Veigle, Anne, Insight on the News
It is no accident that Gap jeans outsell Levi's. Or that toddlers influence their parents' choice of car purchases. Or that children demand clothing with brand-name labels rather than their generic counterparts. Advertisers long have targeted their messages at children. And more than ever, those messages are sent via the Internet.
Marketers are scrambling to get online because it is cheaper than direct mail and reaches a select customer. But while corporate Websites targeting children may look harmless -- they post rules about privacy, require passwords and prohibit adults from conversing with kids -- their underlying purpose is to cultivate brand-name loyalty among kids
"Clearly, a broad strategy has been developed by marketers to do what I call the `brandwashing' of America," says Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Media Education, a nonprofit group that works on privacy and related issues. "The Internet has created a platform for personalized media, which exacerbates the problem of brandwashing."
Since World War II, children have played an increasingly bigger role in U.S. consumer spending. The 1950s child lobbied for breakfast cereals and Barbie dolls advertised on cartoon programs. Kids today have wants far grander and much more expensive: Parents are spending billions of dollars outfitting their children in brandname clothing, not to mention sophisticated computer games, sporting goods and electronic equipment.
Child-related consumption shows no sign of slowing. The average teen spends about $300 a month of his or her own money, according to a survey of 1998 consumer spending by the polling firm Teenage Research Unlimited. Some of the teens earn money with part-time jobs; others are given money by their parents. The polling group estimates that teens' influence on family purchasing decisions contributed $47 billion to the economy last year.
Analysts say two main forces are propelling the spending: working parents tend to buy goods for their children to compensate for hours spent away from home, and divorced couples spend extra to clothe and entertain children in two or more households.
"I think what we're doing is meeting the material needs of children but not necessarily their nonmaterial needs," says Betsy Taylor, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit group outside Washington devoted to reducing consumer waste. "Advertisers want us to satisfy those material needs."
As any parent can attest, advertisers' laserlike focus on the youth market is paying off. Teens, preoccupied with their appearance and identity, easily are lured into thinking that the right pair of sneakers will buy popularity. …