If you think that brands are only something teenagers and adults are concerned about, you might be surprised to know children as young as 3 can recognize brands. But what is wrong with a preschooler wanting to buy only Lego as opposed to other types of blocks? Or by choosing to have a Mcdonald’s birthday party over having one at home? As you will read in our article below, brands may have a deeper impact on young children than you may think.
Kids are understanding brands at a much younger age nowadays
In their article ‘Preschoolers know all about brands’, Slate.com points out how powerful brands can be on young children. Based on a study done by the Madison-Wisconsin and the University of Michigan, 3 year olds are already familiar with brands such as Disney, Mcdonald’s and My Little Pony. Livescience.com has also referenced the same study. In their article they have included several quotes from preschoolers, aged 3 to 6 year old.
They say that, nowadays, kids are starting to judge others based on the brands they like from a much younger age than before. What these kids have to say shows that they do make certain judgements based on the brands they recognize.
For instance, a child associated having a birthday party at Mcdonald’s with having lots of friends. Anna McAlister, a researcher in the study “Children’s Understanding of Brand Symbolism” says that this type of cognitive discernment would be expected on an 8 year old.
So why is it bad for a 3 year old to have such developed thinking? In the Livescience article linked to above, McAlister calls this type of child socially mature. She says: “Children who are able to think about the thoughts of other people are better able to dig out a toy and say ‘I’m going to take this Lego to preschool because other kids at school will like it … and think I’m cool.’”
As a solution, McAlister advises parents to have more control over their kids’ tv time. This is so they don’t get overly influenced by brands and don’t start judging other kids based on what brand advertisements are teaching them.
Brands influence what kids want to eat
Food is a huge part of a child’s development. And advertising companies know this very well. Fast food companies target children in a very particular way, offering indoor playgrounds, toys with their meals, and most important of all, yummy treats.
Slate.com points out that, “if you stick a McDonald’s label on carrots, kids will tell you that they taste better.” Slate also quotes Alison Gopnik, author of The Philosophical Baby. Gopnik links the influence brands have on kids with obesity. And it makes sense.
Take a child who watches an advertisement in which children are thoroughly enjoying some sort of junk food. The child will then go to the supermarket with mom and see this brand item displayed. Chances are this kid may beg and even throw a tantrum over wanting the treat. To keep the child happy (and calm), parents may give in and feed their kid the treat he so enjoys. The brand has won.
Children are incredibly smart. They absorb absolutely everything they see and hear. Brand companies know this and advertise their products accordingly. In the McAlister study linked to above, she says that the more a child is exposed to brands, the more socially mature and sophisticated they’ll become. And this may create:
- Children who make distinctions based on brands.
- Children who choose friends and peer groups based on their favourite brand of toys.
- And children who prefer to eat unhealthy food.
So in a way, the simplicity of a child’s thinking and understanding may be taken away if they are overly influenced by brands.