Understanding The Nag Factor: Are You an “Indulger” or a “Conflicted” Parent?

by Red Pill Mama · 5 comments

in Advertising+Media,Character,General,Health+Wellness,Toys+Products

My mom recently watched a documentary entitled “The Corporation” and sent me a few choice factoids from the film to share with all of you:

  • Marketers play to the developmental levels of a child in their marketing strategies
  • They hire child psychologists to devise ways to sell
  • They spend $12 billion a year on research designed to identify how best to sell toys to kids
  • The goal is to create good, lifelong consumers
  • The most useful “tool” thay have come up with is to get the children to nag their parents
  • They do the same things for adults but it just seems less insidious

Mom added “(but it isn’t!)” to that last item, but I do think it’s less insidious — because while many adults do know better, some have the tools to know better, and only a few perhaps do not — in the case of children, they absolutely do not have the tools to understand how they are being manipulated, or to even remotely be able to step back from the “You must have this!” message and apply any critical thinking to it whatsoever.

I have many times referred to the book “Consuming Kids” as being the Red Pill Bible — and this book is indeed one of the catalysts for starting this whole thing in the first place — but I haven’t gone into it very much here.  But despite all our talk of food and plastic water bottles, this is really the meat of the message that we want to share: that our culture is so heavily defined by consumerism and advertising that’s it’s often hard to sift out the “culture” (norms, customs, valued, history) from the brands.  And this branded world we live in is completely manufactured, designed to manipulate, and does not need to be a “normal” part of a child’s upbringing.  It does not have to be acceptable to us as parents that our kids are pushed to consume something during every TV show, every day at school, and merely in the simple act of watching other kids play at the playground — walking billboards that kids often are.

What Mom picked out of “The Corporation” and chose to share is only the tip of the iceberg, but it does hone in on The Nag Factor.  The commercials you see and the brand empires that exist in your kids’ lives are not the result of companies thinking, “Gosh, we have this really great product that we think will make kids soooo happy, and we just want to share it!” <shrug, wince>  They are corporations interested in their bottom line: executive compensation packages, bonuses, dividends, stock prices, market share.  And they will do really gross things to achieve that.  Here are a few tidbits from Chapter 2 of “Consuming Kids” (“A Consumer in the Family: The Nag Factor and Other Nightmares”), italics mine:

Western Media International, a consumer research organization, put out a press release entitled: “The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging is a Kid’s Best Friend.”  This release identifies which kinds of parents are most likely to give in to nagging: divorced parents and those with teenagers or very young children ranked highest.  Are you one of those?  Then you are a marketer’s dream.  The release states: “Nagging was successful in four out of ten trips to ‘entertainment establishments like the Discovery Zone and Chuck E. Cheese,’ in one out of three trips to a fast-food restaurant, and in three out of every ten home video sales.”

A study called “The U.S. Market for Infant, Toddler and Preschool Products” found that “the impact of children’s nagging is assessed as up to 46 percent of sales in key businesses that target children.”  That would translate to about half of the children’s products in your house being there because you were nagged for them.

Another study revealed that moms reported an average of about 4.7 nags per day.

In a recent survey of 750 kids aged 12-17, it was reported that on average, kids ask nine times before their parents give in and let them have what they want.  Eleven percent of 12 and 13 year olds reported nagging parents more than fifty times for one specific product or another – and all of these were products they had seen advertised.

WMI divides parents into four categories:

  • “Indulgers” are parents who basically give in to their kids’ every whim.
  • “Kids’ Pals” are parents who want to have fun, too, just like their kids.
  • “Conflicted” describes single and/or divorced parents, whose purchasing behavior is influenced by guilt.
  • “Bare Necessities” parents are those who seem able to fend off their kids’ pleas and ultimately make all of the purchasing decisions on their own. These parents are identified as having the least stressed lives – they are the most affluent and the least likely to have babies or toddlers in the house.

(So wow, they even peg we “Bare Necessities” parents in contrast to parents who “want to have fun, too” — as if the two are mutually exclusive!  This just shows you how deep into the consumer mentality the researchers are themselves.)

And that, folks, probably only covers a fraction of the findings, slicing and dicing of your lifestyle and level of guilt, and manipulation of the psychology of your child that happens with that $12 billion in research dollars referenced in “The Corporation.”

Susan Linn writes:

By encouraging children to nag, and by bombarding them with messages that material goods are the key to happiness, the marketing industry is taking advantage of parents’ innate desire for their children to be happy.

So it really isn’t the kids that are being manipulated, after all — it is us: because we’re carrying the purse, and the guilt.  But the marketers don’t even have the balls to go to us directly: they get at us through our kids, who we love and want to be happy.  That is the definition of insidious.  And calling nagging “a child’s best friend”?  That’s the definition of gross.  And just who are these faceless perpetrators, pushers of the “consume and be happy” mentality, opportunists of their guile, deviously using them to climb into our wallets?  Fill in the blank with any beloved children’s brand you can think of: Disney.  Nickelodeon.  Barbie.  McDonald’s.  Justice.  Nintendo.  Abercrombie.  Does that put things into a little perspective?

I’ll share more of what I deemed underline-worthy from subsequent chapters, but these are not the Cliffs Notes people: you still need to read the book!

– Red Pill Mama

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June 10, 2011 at 10:01 am

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anastasia January 26, 2011 at 9:42 am

I am reading the book now! I am only about 20 pages in, and already horrified.

Heather January 26, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I would add the culture of parents pressuring other parents to be consumers to this mix.

I have seen it this way: birthday party “themes” of your favorite cartoon character. Everyone “has” to have a theme. The theme includes the pinata filled with an obscene amount of candy and “party favors” which in my house go straight into the trash. These partiess are the norm now. Anything less is tantamount to depriving your child in certain circles.

I have also been around several people who have taken their 3 year olds to Disneyland numerous times. Their kids seem to enjoy that but I want to do that later with my son. Someone has actually offered to take him for me! As if my son couldn’t wait another few years. That’s really silly to me.

I guess I’m a bare necessities kind of mom. We enjoy the fun and we participate, too but I see the cultural pressures of consumerism between parents all the time.

Red Pill Mama February 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Wait until you get to the chapter about advertising in the schools (you’ve probably read it already) – it will make you even more glad you’re not dealing with the U.S. school system!

Kathy Slattengren February 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Thanks for this information. It’s scary how effectively corporations target children … and how much money is at stake. I just finished watching the documentary Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood. They did a wonderful job pulling together the data on how marketers target children and what impact it has on kids.

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