Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parents as marketers

I've been doing this parenting thing for a few years now, and I'm getting pretty proficient at it (if I do say so my damn self).

Now, I don't claim to be as good as everybody. Certainly I'm not as good as my own parents, but then few are.

But as far as I know, all of my children still live under my roof, and most of them still have most of their digits (which is more than I can say for myself). None of them have intentionally set fire to anything (that I know of) and we don't seem to be having any Mountain Dew Mouth trouble as of yet.

What I'm trying to say is that, so far things are going as well as can be expected, and I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.

The one I like to highlight today is one that many marketing and advertising professionals use all the time. It's about product positioning, and I'll illustrate it with this quick anecdote.

Our two-year-old is in a finicky stage. There are only a couple of foods she'll eat, and since I'm in charge of breakfast on a daily basis, this sometimes irritates the crap out of me. I mean, I'll go to all the work of preparing a delicious bowl of instant oatmeal only to have a budding food snob turn her nose up at it.

So I've been trying different breakfast items to see what works. At the super market the other day I picked up a box of Kix cereal, reasonably healthy because it doesn't have added sugar (which is toxic, by the way). Yesterday, I poured a few of he corn-based pellets into a bowl and set it in front of her for breakfast.

Of course, she would have none of it. One look at the pile of cereal and she handed me a stink eye along with a sharp "No! I want yogurt!"

Now I know most of you don't put up with this kind of attitude from a two-year-old, and you shouldn't. I don't either. I made sure to get an apology before providing a bowl of plain vanilla yogurt, her favorite. But knowing that a key to getting you're little house apes to eat different foods is just getting them to try them, I came back a few minutes later with a small handful of Kix in my hand.

I made sure she was watching when I popped a couple in my mouth and made the "Mmmmmm!" sound and said "Wow, these tiny little cookies are delicious!"

Key piece of information here: The girls is very familiar with the concept of cookies. She's tried them. She love's them. She would probably exist (for a few short years before dying of childhood diabetes) solely on them if we let her.

And of course, the mention of "cookies" got her attention. She tentatively took one of the little round pellets from my hand and popped it in her mouth. Then she grabbed the rest and ate them all. Next thing you know, she's going back to that bowl of the "cookies" and chowing down.

You see, it's all about Placement. Big Cereal does this all the time, using cartoon characters and high fructose corn syrup to get children to eat toxic substances.

As a parent, I'm just flipping the script on them. Using the same kind of marketing tactics to trick my kids into eating something less unhealthy.

And that's, one to grow on…

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  1. No, this isn't product placement. It's just lieing to them.

    Telling her it's a cookie when it actually cereal, is s bold faced lie.

  2. Well... perhaps it stretches the meaning of the word "cookie" a bit, but haven't you ever seen MadMen?

  3. Hell...Leo grew up for several years when he was a kiddo thinking that the ice cream truck was actually a "music truck". And when it drove past their house, they would run out to the sidewalk and dance to the tune it happened to be playing as it passed by.

    Wasn't until he was about 7, or so, and was over at a friend's house when one came through. And his friend got money from him mom and went out and bought ice cream from that thar music truck that he learned the awful truth.

    Didn't change the fact that his parents weren't gonna buy him any ice cream from it, though. :/

    I don't see this Kix-as-cookies lie as being much different from pretending Santa is real. I think it's a damned good plan, actually!

  4. I've always told the Astas that sugar is causes cancer and broccoli will help them live forever. They also believe Harry Potter gets much of his magical powers from eating oatmeal.

    While this may, indeed, be lying, I’d rather have her berate me later over it then face her first existential angst over my lying to her about a ‘god’.

  5. That's an ingenious way to get kids to eat something new.

    And since you mentioned that your kids haven't set fire to anything yet, I thought you'd like this story...

    One day when my mom was 22 or so, she went to her parents' house to visit. She parked her car in front of the house, and as she got out of the car, a burning mattress flew out of a second story window onto the front lawn.

    It turns one of my mom's much younger brothers was a little pyro. While one of the brothers took a nap in his bedroom, the youngest brother got under the bed with a lighter and "accidentally" set the bed on fire.

  6. Michelle, I'm pretty sure I saw a Lifetime Movie of the Week about you're pyromaniac uncle.


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