Marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association (October 2007) “as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” thus the bottom line thrust of marketing is to meet a need. While some argue that marketing creates a need and makes people buy what they do not want to, my question really is can a person be made to buy what they do not want? Following Piaget (1970)’s cognitive development theory, we find that children first develop their motor-sensory skills and their reasoning and discernment skills later. Thus at ages of up to 12, most children find it difficult to discern between real and unreal as such, they tend to believe that most advertising as real. Changing demographics which have skewed traditional household patterns has meant that children spend more time with television these days and have such become more susceptible to television advertising as television has emerged as the new babysitter (Solomon et al, 2010).
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The aim of marketing is to get the consumer to make a purchase decision. As such, advertisers have through the understanding of the cognitive development patterns of children developed high impact advertising. Cognitive development theory leads us to understand that children up to the age of 7, get confused by advertising containing aural cues such as voiceovers but they pay more attention to advertising with lots of special effects, animation, jingles and humor ( Kunkel et al, (2001), cited in warren et al, 2008). The use of adverting containing these elements tend to reduce the ability of the child to discern reality in advertising. To create share of mind and have great brand recall, one technique highly used successfully by advertisers to lure children have been reward based promotions such as the packaging of small gifts in boxes or favorite mementoes embedded in products (Comstalk and Paik, 1991). I remember as a child a particular detergent that had plastic figures of animals like elephants, rhino and giraffe amongst others stuffed in the cartons. This was one product we always looked forward to our parents buying and somehow we tried to get them make these purchases.
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