Let me just say that this is a bit of a rant. It’s as much about marketing as it is about parenting, the latter being the more important here. It’s about personal responsibility and making a statement with your buying power instead of, well, ranting (ironic, isn’t it?). Your comments are welcomed.
Lately I have noticed an increase in the number of ways that people want to regulate the actions of marketing departments or other executives promoting a product. A recent email that urged me to send a letter to Sanrio asking them not to license Hello Kitty’s image to sell candy prompted me to write this.
First off, the point of the email is really ridiculous. A Google search for “Hello Kitty Candy” garnered 20,800,000 results in less than one second. I think Hello Kitty has permeated the candy industry and has for some time––there’s little to do to turn the tide. And honestly, I’m okay with that.
Unless an ad is fraudulent or promoting something harmful or illegal, I can’t see a reason to try to encourage the company to change their marketing activities. I can understand the outrage of Joe Camel becoming too cute to caution the killer effects—and I do mean killer–of smoking cigarettes but a kid-friendly image selling a kid-friendly food should not be regulated or discouraged. If you don’t want your kids to eat Hello Kitty candy, then don’t buy it. End of story. If enough people feel like you and decline the purchase, then the product will fail because no one is buying it. That is how you send a message to a company.
The email says:
For forty years, Hello Kitty’s iconic image has been bringing in big bucks. But there ought to be a limit. Hello Kitty should not be used to sell Jelly Belly jellybeans, Pez candies, junky fruit snacks, and lollypop rings to kids. It’s hard enough to get kids to eat well without having to compete with Hello Kitty and other characters that kids love so much.
I have a number of issues with this statement, the “blaming the marketer” is just one. Parents need to take control is another and the third, that I will not get into here, is the comment that “there ought to be a limit” [to how much money Sanrio can make on this image]. That’s preposterous but it’s a different rant completely.
My kids enjoy the M&M characters, but I don’t buy M&Ms for them because they contain dyes and artificial vanilla (called vanillin) that cause behavior problems for my children. And yes, I have signed petitions to get these colorings and flavorings removed from foods in the U.S. as a health problem and many companies do not include those same additives in their European distribution or they have included a warning label for the issues I’ve named above. Different issue, but I’m not mad at M&Ms/Mars for making those cartoons so cute that my job as a parent is more difficult. Oddly, that petition was circulated through this same organizationso I have to say they do some good things in my opinion, but this tips the scales.
If you can’t say no to your children, don’t blame the marketing. Why target Hello Kitty? It’s not like Hello Kitty used to sell carrots now she’s selling marshmallows. She doesn’t even have a mouth! Ironically Hello Kitty also shills her own toothpasteand toothbrush. What about the millions Disney makes on all of their candies with their characters’ images emblazoned on the label? What about those sneaky Keebler Elves? Tony the Tiger? Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? There’s nothing incongruent going on here. Sure, I would be shocked to see something completely incongruent like the Jolly Green Giant or Little Sprout on a box of Lemonheads, and although I would think the marketing was less than brilliant, I would not be inclined to send them a note to tell them so. I’ll buy it or I won’t—my pocketbook sends the message.
Promoting a product successfully is not as easy as a cartoon endorsement. Of course, I can understand all sugar-coated-crap being equal that your child might choose the Hello Kitty one over the Count Chocula endorsed treat, but you are the one allowing the choice to be made. You are the person making the purchase. On a site called FoodMarketing.orgthey blame marketing for all nutritional ills in this country—largely childhood obesity. Maybe this organization should channel their energies to educating parents about healthy food, instead of lobbying fast food restaurants to take the soda option off of their kids’ menus. Don’t blame the marketing, blame the parents.
Don’t sign petitions or send notes to companies to change their licensing or other promotional activities if there is really nothing injurious happening to those who buy the product. It’s silly! If you have such little self control that you have to buy something because the marketers told you to, or because your child gave you her big sad eyes, then you have other issues. And parents, quit abdicating to corporations. It is not their job to raise your children.