Note To Brands: Kids Know You

“These marshmallows taste funny,” my five-year-old son announced the last time we were baking something with marshmallows. “These aren’t the ones we usually get.  The ones we get have colored stripes on the bag.”Indeed, when I went to the store the brand we usually buy, which has colored stripes on it, was out of stock. I bought the generic store brand marshmallows. While my son is only just beginning to be able to read, he certainly knew that we had not gotten the “usual” brand of marshmallows. He recognized the brand was different and voiced his preference.

At what age do children become aware of brand and to what extent?  My son can certainly recognize symbols, evidenced by his recognition of numerous superhero symbols. Studies have shown pre-schoolers have the ability to recognize brands much younger than conventional wisdom may have thought.

Beyond recognizing a logo or name of a brand, what importance is it that young children are able to distinguish different products?  One might argue that they are learning early how to make decisions based on their user experience or influence of others.  Here’s a video illustrating one example of a 5 year-old’s recognition of brands.

Clearly marketers have long been aware of this target audience and have worked hard to appeal to and capture them as potential long-term loyal brand customers.

How advertising is influencing children’s brand preferences is definitely raising concern and parents should certainly be mindful of its impact.  Perhaps it can help influence children to make healthier choices.

As brands engage consumers earlier and earlier kids will be more aware of the brand landscape across many different areas of their life. Whether this is good or bad is debatable.  The government has provided assistance for parents as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, has launched a campaign to teach kids about advertising.  The key for brands is to realize that regardless of who they market to they need to stay true to their promise.  The opportunity to create brand advocates young means it is even more important that brand messages are consistent.

For now, if the extent of brand awareness remains my son’s preference for certain marshmallows, I’ll keep that in mind before the next time we bake.