A new study shows that children as young as two years old easily recognise
brand logos and that the amount of TV they watched determined how much branding
The study, titled “Identifying determinants of young children’s
brand awareness: Television, parents and peers” by Patti Valkenburg and
Moniek Buijzen of the Amsterdam School of Communications Research and published
in the journal Applied Developmental Psychology, examines brand recognition
and recall in a younger age group than previous studies. Infants as young as
two were able to recognise 8 out of 12 brands they were shown, and the more
TV they had been exposed to, the more brands they recognised.
At a time when parents worry their children are growing up too fast, or with
the wrong values, this research confirms the huge influence of television. Long
before they can understand half of what their parents are saying to them, infants
as young as two are being approached by advertisers and broadcasters. This report
shows how close that relationship has become.
“The current generation of children has been recognised as the most brand
conscious ever,” say the report’s authors. “Our study has
clearly shown that exposure to television has consequences for the brand recognition
of even the youngest children.”
They go on to mention specifically the TV programme that made it acceptable
to target children this young.
“Whereas only one decade ago, kids marketers used to limit their efforts
to children older than 6, recently they progressively recognise infants and
toddlers as a vital and undeniable target group. This trend has accelerated
even more since the worldwide success of the tremendously popular toddler program,
Selling to children is nothing new. But selling to children who can't even
speak is a recent innovation, with the Teletubbies alone earning the BBC millions.
Advice to parents that they "be aware" of what their children watch
or "speak to children about what they see" looks increasingly insufficient.
Broadcasters and advertisers count on messages getting through to young viewers
regardless of what parents know. And if a child hasn't learned to talk, there
is little point discussing the finer points of consumerism and product placement.
Turn off the TV, however, and the flood of branding stops.
Since 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children
under the age of two should not watch television at all. The Academy advises
that older children be limited to two hours a day. In Britain, a third of children
under the age of four now have a TV set in their bedrooms. Programmes like the
Fimbles and the Tweenies are marketed directly to them.
“This report shows that kids need protection,”
says David Burke White Dot’s British Director “When advertisers
talk about helping children with their consumer choices, and Anne Woods, who
created the Teletubbies, talks about the research she does to find out what
children like, we hope parents will see through their cynicism.”