Tag Archives: marketing

The Ethics of Marketing to Children

A recent study done by a South African company, Youth Dynamix, has shown some interesting results which lead to an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times.  

The Sunday Times article titled, Material world reels in the young, painted a picture of South African youth as more materialistic than the previous generation. The study done by Youth Dynamix studied South African tweens between the ages of seven and fifteen and used a range of four different methodologies. The BratTrax 2009/2010 study (the fourth study of its kind done) showed that 85% of the respondents interviewed believed that money made them happy.  

The children in the study fall in the age cohort[1] of the Generation Y market. The members of Generation Y are children of baby boomers and, depending on the source were born between 1977 and 1994, or between 1982 and 2000. The members of Generation Y can be divided into three sub segments: Gen Y adults (ages 19-28); Gen Y teens (ages 13-18) and Gen Y “tweens” (ages 8-12). (Schiffman and Kanuk; 2010:410)  

The Gen Y tweens spend and influence roughly $1.18 trillion in purchases worldwide, know brand images better than an advertising expert, spend a lot of time online and affect their parents’ brand choices. (Schiffman and Kanuk; 2010:411) The result of these findings is that a lot of money, more than $15 billion, is being spent annually to directly target and advertise to children.  

Parents aren’t helping the situation along, as fast-paced lifestyles have resulted in parents from middle and upper-middle income homes, are using money to compensate for their lack of involvement in their children’s lives.  

I have no direct experience as a parent, and therefore can’t attempt to understand the delicate nature of the relationship between parents and their children. But I have witnessed many hysterical fits and tantrums in shopping centres, which clearly indicate who the controlling force in many South African households is.  

In conclusion, I would like to paraphrase a quote by education specialist Janine Shamos from the Sunday Times article, “We have manoeuvred ourselves into a situation where we are going to have a mentally and physically unhealthy generation who are confused by what they want and need”.     


Schiffman, L.G. & Kanuk, L.L. 2010. Consumer Behaviour. Tenth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. New Jersey.  

Naidoo, S. 2010. Material world reels in the young. Sunday Times Newspaper. South Africa.  


[1] A cohort is a group of individuals born over a relatively short and continuous period of time. (Schiffman and Kanuk; 2010:410)


Book Review – Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae

Title: Meatball Sundae

Author: Seth Godin

Country of origin: United States

Release date: December 2007

First published: 2008

Genre: New media marketing

Publisher: Portfolio (a member of the Penguin Group USA Inc.

Price: R182 on loot.co.za and $16.29 on amazon.com

ISBN: 978-0-7499-2948-0

I must admit that the first thing about this book that caught my attention was the title. The quirky combination of words immediately caught my interest. I mean, no person in their right mind would combine the two components, so I decided to give the book a chance.

As you flip open the book, Seth Godin explains that a Meatball Sundae is a messy, disgusting and ineffective marketing approach and the result of combining two marketing aspects that have nothing in common.

Godin’s metaphor of meatballs is used to describe the basic staples of marketing, the things people need, the products or services which used to be marketed quite effectively with television adverts and other mass-market techniques.

The toppings on the sundae are explained as being the New Marketing revolution, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, websites, permission marketing and viral techniques.

Godin explains in the book that companies are all trying to catch on to the hype of the New Marketing revolution but often fails dismally. He states that what often happens when companies force sundae toppings onto meatballs is one big marketing failure. His suggestion to fixing this problem is for organisations to stop producing the same tried and tested items and to create something fresh and new which can be complemented by new marketing.

What I enjoyed most in reading this book is Seth Godin’s quirky sense of humour. His relaxed and informal writing style makes this business book a joy to read and it also helps you to remember what you read and to internalise the point he is trying to make.

In his introduction for instance Godin writes: “You think I’d learn a lesson. My short books sell much better that my long ones. So why not make this book really short? Two reasons. First, because there’s a lot of juicy stuff here, tactics you can use right now, stories that can inspire change. Second, because I’m asking a lot out of you once you’re finished reading.”

The book is divided into three parts, part one is titled: Thinking about the Meatball Sundae and explains the world of marketing, first as it was with a brief and interesting history, and then continues to paint a picture of the current marketing environment.

The second part of the book focuses on the fourteen trends that are remaking what it means to be a marketer. The trends are explained and discussed with relevant examples of how they have been implemented in companies and how they changed those companies for the better.

The fourteen trends as listed in Seth Godin’s book are:

1.  Direct Communication and Commerce between Producers and Consumers

2.  Amplification of the Voice of the Consumer and Independent Authorities

3.  Need for an Authentic Story as the number of sources increase

4.  Extremely Short Attention Spans due to Clutter

5.  The Long Tail

6.  Outsourcing

7.  Google and the Dicing of Everything

8.  Infinite Channels of Communication

9.  Direct Communication and Commerce between Consumers and Consumers

10.  The Shifts in Scarcity and Abundance

11.  The Triumph of Big Ideas

12.  The Shift from “How Many” to “Who”

13.  The Wealthy are like us

14.  New Gatekeepers, No Gatekeepers

The final part of the book is aptly titled Putting It Together where Godin explains that though the fourteen trends may seem contradictory, or too diverse it is important to leverage at least a few of them in an organisation. He then provides practical examples of how this has been done.

Godin concludes the book with the message: “if New Marketing can be characterized by just one idea it is that ideas spread through groups of people are far more powerful than ideas delivered at an individual”.

If you’re still not sold on this amazing book that will revolutionise your perspective on New Marketing, then check out some other reviews.

Seth’s Blog

Copy blogger

Shoestring branding

Vuvuzelas – sending the wrong message?

While soccer fever has taken over South Africa, I can help but wonder whether the beautiful game has become overshadowed by the awful noise.

When trying to view the matches on television, you have to concentrate so hard to hear what the commentators are saying as it is abundantly clear that they are evermore distracted by the incessant buzzing of thousands of enthusiastic vuvuzela blowing fans.

International broadcasting organisations such as the BBC and ESPN experienced sound related problems early on during the FIFA World Cup. Many consumers phoned in to report that they could not hear the commentators, only the buzzing sound emanating from the stadiums in live broadcasts. This resulted in World Cup organising chief South African Danny Jordaan considering on banning the vuvuzela’s from stadiums. Though reported by Worldsoccer.com this never happened.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a fan sitting in the stadiums watching your favourite team play after flying in from your home country only to be so distracted by the ear-splitting noise that you are unable to enjoy the star player’s winning goal.

The abuse of the vuvuzela indoors at airports and inside shopping centres in South Africa has resulted in a nationwide indoor ban of the “plastic trumpet”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a home country hating cynic or opposed to the wonderful foreign exposure that South Africa is getting due to the Football World Cup being hosted in our beautiful country, all I’m pondering is whether or not the vuvuzela and its accompanying noise isn’t perhaps sending the wrong message of South Africa.

There is already an enormous amount of online backlash as to the harmful effects of vuvuzela. Many sites have cited the possible long-term effects that prolonged exposure to the noise of vuvuzela’s could have on a person’s hearing. BBC News stated in an online article that the vuvuzela blows in at 127 decibels at full volume when pressed against your ear. Other noise makers such as a drum (at 122 decibels), a chainsaw (at 100 decibels) and a referee’s whistle (at 121.8 decibels) fall much lower on a sliding scale of harmful sound levels.

Other international sporting events such as the Tri Nations Rugby and Rugby World Cup are surely going to be subjected to the vuvuzela if the sporting matches are to be held in South Africa. New Zealand however has banned the “long plastic air horn” from matches held at their rugby stadiums. In an article on Rugbyweek.com David Kennedy states that this weekend’s match between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Eden Park will free from the swarm of bees sound produced by vuvuzela toting supporters.

In the midst of all this negativity, I can’t help but wonder whether international visitors are forming an unpleasant association between South Africa, its people and the vuvuzela. Has the annoying noise lead to visitors labelling all South Africans as annoying? Consumer Perception is a dangerous thing and a difficult assumption to change.

Have we in our excitement and joy over hosting the World Cup, indirectly sabotaged our positive marketing attempts (through lively and colourful adverts promoting our country) with a cheap tuneless noise.

Stealth Marketing

Stealth marketing also known as subterfuge-, undercover- or buzz marketing has managed to draw quite a bit of attention in recent months with the April 2010 release of Derrick Borte’s new movie The Joneses.

The Joneses brings to the big screen a marketing technique which has been around for a number of years but due to its, uhem, stealthy tactics; it has remained fairly under the radar.

Stealth marketing is defined as a marketing venture where the consumer does not know that he or she is being marketed to. It is, in my opinion a very innovative way to market to consumers as it has become very easy for people to simply skip or ignore a company’s efforts to reach them through conventional advertising mediums both online and offline.

Examples of online stealth marketing ventures include companies paying people to frequent forums centred around the company’s products or brand and to promote the afore mentioned products or brands to fellow consumers, often without ever using the products.

Famous (or more accurately infamous) instances of stealth marketing tactics gone horribly wrong for the company include Wal-Mart which set up a flog (fake blog) detailing a fictitious couples journey across America in a camper van titled Walmarting Across America. In the flog the “couple” tell tales of their experience of parking in Wal-Mart parking lots and the friendly staff members that they encountered.

Offline examples of stealth marketing tactics include actors who are paid to go to busy public areas and promote the company’s product. These actors pretend to be average people merely going about their day, when in actual fact they are hired to create an engaging experience between the product and the consumer.

Published accounts of these types of undercover marketing tactics include an article on nydailynews.com from April this year which accounts the experience of one jobbing stealth marketing actress called Julia Royter.

Royter explains in the article that she enjoys her job and the freedom it allows her to play different characters. She tells of one covert advertising campaign that she was involved with for BlackBerry for which she was paid to go to trendy New York midtown bars and flirt with men. The purpose of the encounter was for her to ask the men for their phone numbers and then hand over the newly released BlackBerry Pearl phone for him to enter his number into. It was that simple.

There has been a lot of backlash surrounding this relatively new phenomenon but not everyone views it as negative, myself included. I feel that if the consumer enjoys the created experience and therefore has a positive interaction with and association to the advertised brand then the advertiser has reached their goal. I don’t see the harm in promoting products in this innovative way, it is more interactional and potentially gives the consumer a more three dimensional view of the brand, having experienced it. The consumer still has a choice whether or not to purchase the product; no one is forcing them at gun point.

Jason Van Trentlyon, president of Street Guerrilla Marketing also views stealth marketing in a positive light and said in an interview with the New York Daily News that, “stealth marketing has a greater potential to make a more sincere impact on the public as opposed to a TV or billboard ad, people are inundated with so many blatant advertisements on TV and in magazines that they don’t pay attention anymore. This is a way of creating buzz, and any buzz is good buzz”.

I think as a marketer you need to be able to adapt to the changing environment of the twenty-first centaury. There is so much advertising clutter that consumers feel overwhelmed with amount of adverts that they are exposed to on a daily basis that they choose to relieve themselves of it all together by using PVR to fast forward past television commercials or to click close on pop up windows.

Charles Darwin had it right when he said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

This quote is most apt to end this post as it basically defines that as a marketer change is inevitable and in order to survive becoming obsolete one has to adapt or die (figuratively, literally it would be the death of a career).

To check out some of the articles I sourced click below:

New York Daily News

Marketing Minefield

The Sunday Times (UK)


The Joneses (2009)

Charles Darwin Quotes

Wal-Mart fake blog