Understanding Children as Consumers


Edited by: David Marshall

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  • Advanced Marketing Series

    Series Editor

    Professor Phil Harris, University of Chester, UK

    Series Editorial Board

    Professor Morris Holbrook, Columbia University, NY, USA

    Professor Rob Lawson, University of Otago, New Zealand

    Professor Bill Lundstrom, Cleveland State University, USA

    Professor Mark Gabbott, Maquarie University, Australia

    Professor Bruce Newman, De Paul University, USA

    Professor Caroline Tynan, University of Nottingham, UK

    Professor Craig Fleisher, College of Coastal Georgia, USA

    Professor Dale Littler, Emeritus Professor University of Manchester, UK

    Professor David Carson, University of Ulster, UK

    Professor Robin Wensley, Warwick University, UK

    Professor Nicholas O'Shaughnessy, Brunei University, UK

    Professor John O'Shaughnessy, Emeritus Professor Columbia University, USA

    Professor Mike Saren, University of Leicester, UK

    Professor Pauline Maclaran, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

    Professor Richard Speed, The University of Melbourne, Australia

    Professor Andrew Lock, Emeritus Professor University of Leeds, UK

    Professor Andrew McAuley, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

    Professor Camille Schuster, California State University, USA

    Professor Carla Miller, University of Twente, The Netherlands, and Ashridge Business School, UK


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    Notes on Contributors

    Gary Cross is Distinguished Professor of Modern History at The Pennsylvania State University (USA) and author or editor of 13 books, including Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Society (Routledge), Kids’ Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of Modern Childhood (Harvard), An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercial Won in Modern America (Columbia), The Cute and the Cool: Wondrous Innocence and Modern American Children's Culture (Oxford), The Playful Crowd: Pleasure Places in the Twentieth Century (with John Walton, Columbia), and Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity.

    Teresa Davis is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her main research interests lie in two areas. The first focuses on the discourses around children, childhood and consumption. The second examines the intersections of culture and consumption. Related areas of research are the socio-historical analyses of culture and consumption. Teresa has published articles in Consumption Markets and Culture, Advances in Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Marketing and Journal of Brand Management. She was also the co-editor of the Advances in Consumer Research Asia-Pacific Volume 7 and co-editor of a special issue of Consumption Markets and Culture on the historical perspectives on production and consumption in the Asia-Pacific (forthcoming 2010). She is on the programme committee of the Consumer Culture Theory conference for 2010. She has co-authored the 2007 textbook Consumer Behaviour: Implications for Marketing, which won the 2008 Australian Publishers’ award in the ‘tertiary education’ category. She serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Consumer Behaviour and Young Consumers.

    Valérie-Inés de La Ville is a professor in organization studies, business policy and marketing innovation at the University of Poitiers (France). She is the founder of The European Centre for Children's Products — a training and research unit focused on children-orientated markets — that delivers a Masters Degree in Plurimedia Management of Children's Products. She has edited in 2005 L'enfant consommateur, Vuibert, Paris, and coordinated as a guest editor a special issue on Child and Teen Consumption in the Society and Business Review in 2007. Her research areas are in the collective foundation of entrepreneurial and strategic undertakings, the dialogical processes of strategy formation, and the strategic innovations in children-orientated markets as well as in the ethical issues raised by addressing children as consumers within contemporary society. She currently supervises a national interdisciplinary research programme on Children and Fun foods.

    Karin M. Ekström is Professor in Marketing at the School of Business and Informatics, University of Borås, Sweden. She is initiator and former director of the Centre for Consumer Science (CFK), an interdisciplinary consumer research centre. Her research concerns family consumption, consumer socialization, collecting, design and the meaning(s) of consumption. She has edited several books, Children, Media and Consumption, on the Front Edge (2007), Little Monster, (De) coupling Assemblages of Consumption (2007), and Elusive Consumption (2004) and published in journals such as Academy of Marketing Science Review, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Management and Research in Consumer Behavior.

    Stephen Kline is currently a Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, and the Director of the Media Analysis Laboratory. His writing and teaching ranges widely through the fields of media analysis and audience research including media education, advertising and consumerism, toy and video game play, and most recently domestic consumption dynamics. His most recent book Globesity, Food Marketing and Family: A Communication Analysis of a Lifestyle Risk Pandemic (Palgrave-MacMillan) examines the processes of risk communication galvanized by the media's relationship to sedentary lifestyles, fast food culture and children's consumerism.

    David Marshall is Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at The University of Edinburgh Business School and Head of the Marketing Group. His research interests and activities centre on understanding consumer behaviour, as a key component of marketing. This includes research on children's consumption, particularly food choice behaviour; and food availability and access in relation to health. He edited Food Choice and the Consumer (1995) and has published in a number of academic journals including Consumption, Markets and Culture, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Advertising and Marketing to Children (Young Consumers), Journal of Marketing Management, The Sociological Review, Public Health Nutrition, Appetite, and Journal of Food Quality and Preference.

    Agnes Nairn is Professor of Marketing at two of Europe's leading business schools: EM-Lyon in France and RSM Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Her area of expertise is the ethics of marketing to young people. She works as a consultant to a range of governments, NGOs, charities and corporations including Family and Parenting Institute, Consumer Focus, Care for the Family, Coca-Cola GB, Unilever and Mothercare. She currently serves on two UK government expert panels for the Department of Children, Schools and Families and Department of Health. She is a frequent press, radio and TV commentator on the impact of the commercial world of children. Agnes’ academic work has appeared in a wide range of international journals and she is author of a number of policy reports. Her co-authored book, Consumer Kids, appeared in 2009.

    Clive Nancarrow, Professor Emeritus at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, specializes in applied psychology and research methodology. He has been a practitioner for many years on both the research agency and client side. He has published widely in both academic and practitioner journals and carried out consultancy for Associa, Barclays Bank, Channel 4 TV, Chartered Institute of Marketing, Christian Dior, COI, The Royal Mail, Saitek, TNS and the Wellcome Trust.

    Stephanie O'Donohoe is Reader in Marketing at the University of Edinburgh Business School. An interpretive consumer researcher, her PhD, completed at Edinburgh, explored young adults’ everyday experiences of advertising, and her current research interests include advertising production and consumption, the role of consumption in the transition to motherhood, and bereaved consumers’ interactions with the marketplace. Her work has been published in various edited volumes and international conference proceedings, and in journals including Human Relations, European Journal of Marketing, and Consumption, Markets and Culture. She is book review editor for the International Journal of Advertising and a member of the editorial boards for Young Consumers and Marketing Theory.

    Maria Piacentini is Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Lancaster University Management School, UK. Her research focuses on the consumption behaviour of vulnerable consumers, a stream of research that emanates from her PhD research which focused on low income and disadvantaged consumers and their attitudes and motivations towards healthy eating. She has published her work in a number of journals, including the Journal of Business Research, the Journal of Marketing Management, Advances in Consumer Research, the Journal of Consumer Behaviour, International Journal of Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, International Review of Retailing, Distribution and Consumer Research, Appetite, and Food Quality and Preference.

    Jeanette Rasmussen is a PhD student at the Copenhagen Business School. Her thesis is about Tweens’ perception of commercial messages on the internet. Her research centres on children's use of the internet and children, media and consumer research. She has published in Journal of Consumer Marketing and Young Consumers.

    Christine Roland-Lévy is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, and Head of the Applied Psychology Research Laboratory. Her research interests and activities centre on understanding consumer behaviour, and especially via economic socialization, as well as on social representations. This includes research on children's understanding about money, consumption, and other related fields, as well as of economic behaviour. She edited a series of books in English, French and Japanese, on related themes, such as Everyday Representations of the Economy (2001), Political Learning and Citizenship in Europe (2003, and 2006 for the Japanese adaptation), Psychologie Économique: Théories et Applications (1998) and Économie, Médias et Nouvelles Technologies (2003), as well as three special issues of international scientific journals on the theme of Applied Psychology and Economic Socialization (Journal of Economic Psychology, New Review of Social Psychology and, Applied Psychology: An International Journal). She has published in a number of academic journals including the above mentioned, and International Journal of Advertising and Marketing to Children, Consumer Behaviour, as well as Citizenship, Social and Economics Education: An International Journal, European Psychologist, European Review of Applied Psychology. She is the President of the Consortium of Associations of French Psychologists, as well as the President of a European academic network on Citizenship and Identity.

    Valérie Tartas is a lecturer and researcher in developmental psychology within the Octogone — Cognition, Communication and Development Laboratory at the University of Toulouse 2, France. Her principal interest topics are about the relationship between social context, mediation tools and learning. She is interested in socio-cognitive development through the appropriation of cultural tools by children with a special interest in the development of children's thinking and language. She has recently taken part in research about learning through argumentation supported by ICT tools in two European projects: Dunes (Dialogic and argUmentative Negotiation Educational Software, 2002–2004) and Escalate (Enhancing SCience Appeal in Learning through Argumentative interaction, 2006–2007). In 2009, she published a book on the construction of social time by children.

    Julie Tinson is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Stirling where she principally teaches Consumer Behaviour and Marketing Communications. Her research interests include family decision making and consumer socialization. She has recently published a book entitled Conducting Research with Children and Adolescents: Design, Methods and Empirical Cases and has published in a number of academic journals including the International Journal of Market Research, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Journal of Consumer Marketing, Advances in Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing Management.

    Sarah Todd is Professor of Marketing and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Otago. She is co-director of the Consumer Research Group and has been co-leader of the comprehensive study of New Zealanders’ consumer lifestyles, undertaken on a five yearly basis. Within the broad area of marketing, Sarah's teaching and research has primarily been in consumer behaviour, with current research interests including children's consumption, particularly how children learn and understand the marketplace, and ethical consumption. Additionally, Sarah has acted as expert witness for NZ's Commerce Commission on a number of cases based on consumers’ understanding of information.

    Birgitte Tufte is professor at Copenhagen Business School. Her research is focused on Children, Media and Consumption. Her publications have been published in various academic journals such as the Journal of Consumer Marketing, Society and Business and the International Journal of Advertising and Marketing to Children. She has also authored a number of books including Global Trends in Media Education (Hampton Press, 2003), Frontrunners or Copycats? (Copenhagen Business School Press, 2005), Children, Media and Consumption — on the Front Edge (Nordicom, 2007). Her latest two books (in Danish) are: Children, Media and Market (Samfundslitteratur, 2007) and Children growing up with Media and Consumption (Samfundslitteratur, 2009).

    Brian Young is a Research Fellow and consumer psychologist at the University of Exeter. A psychology graduate of the University of Edinburgh, he spent seven years in Hong Kong where he received a PhD in Chinese-English bilingualism. He has published extensively in the area of children and advertising with Television Advertising and Children (Oxford University Press, 1990) and with E.L. Palmer (eds) The Faces of Televisual Media: Teaching, Violence, Selling to Children, 2nd Edition (Erlbaum, 2003). Brian is Editor of Young Consumers, an Emerald Group journal. His interests are in consumer socialization and theories of promotional activity. He teaches at the University of Exeter in both the School of Psychology and the Business School in consumer and economic socialization, child development, and advertising and consumer psychology.

    Preface and Acknowledgements

    Someone asked me recently why I became interested in young consumers. The answer was simple and I did not have to think long and hard about it — because I had children of my own. As they grew up I became fascinated by their ‘consumer’ experiences, many of which I was responsible for, with a range of products from building blocks to breakfast cereals, trading cards to Tamogotchi pets, football (soccer) players to social networking sites. You may not have guessed but we have boys and I remember having to try to buy a present for my young nieces and realizing that there was another aisle in the toy store where we seldom ventured. Children, both boys and girls, seemed engaged, knowledgeable and ‘experienced’ in this commercial world and I felt that there was more to all this than the model of the passive vulnerable child depicted in many texts. Another reason for my initial interest can be attributed to one of my undergraduate students, Sarah (ffelhan) Case who was looking at the role of character merchandising in marketing to children and wrote an excellent dissertation on the topic. As part of her research into the role of media and character toys she lent me a copy of Out of the Garden by Stephen Kline, one of this book's contributors (I returned it only recently!), and this opened up a new field of research literature which was fascinating and intriguing. The more I read — a number of these books are briefly listed in the introduction — the more it became clear that the views of many experts did not always correspond with my own experiences and so I began to try to see what children made of this all by talking to them.

    The idea for the book arose from a meeting with Sarah Todd, University of Otago, at the 2003 European Association for Consumer Research conference in Dublin, Ireland. At that time Sarah was looking at children's experiences with money and this started out as a joint project. Unfortunately due to other commitments Sarah had to withdraw from her editorial role but continued to offer invaluable comments on the structure of the book as it took shape. Her support and enthusiasm throughout the project have been invaluable and much appreciated. Thanks also go to Phil Harris, University of Chester, who supported the text as part of the Sage Advanced Marketing Series. I am especially thankful to Delia Alfonso the commissioning editor at Sage who embraced the idea with genuine enthusiasm and her unending patience was to prove a virtue as work commitments and pressure from the UK Research Assessment Exercise led to delay after delay as the project got pushed back. Without Delia and her colleagues at Sage this book would not have materialized.

    Huge thanks go out to all the authors, who persevered amidst continual requests for chapters, revised submission schedules and delayed publication dates as the final pieces of the jigsaw were put together. Special thanks go out to those who stepped in at the last minute to contribute chapters to the book. Each author has made an individual contribution despite busy work — and in many cases, family — schedules, to bring their own perspectives on children as consumers that both review the field of study and offer new and interesting perspectives for the reader. I am grateful to John Dawson and Stephanie O'Donohoe at the University of Edinburgh Business School, Stephen Kline at Simon Fraser University and Agnes Nairn, University of EM-Lyon, who provided invaluable insights and constructive comments throughout the project and Rosemary Duff of Childwise who allowed me access to information on the UK children's market.

    A number of anonymous individuals gave up their time to review the initial proposal and offer valuable and constructive suggestions on how to improve the book proposal. I endeavoured, where possible, to deliver on these requests and hope this is in line with your expectations. Special thanks go to the two anonymous reviewers who provided some excellent and extremely helpful comments on the manuscript draft and enabled me to revisit, with the help of the contributors, some of these issues and further develop the text.

    Finally, I would like to thank my partner Linda and our children Shaun and Ben, who are always willing to offer their consumer perspective.

    I hope this edited collection will provide insights and generate some of the enthusiasm that we have experienced in reading, researching, writing about and watching children as consumers. Knowledge should be empowering for us as students, academics, researchers and practitioners and the insights from each of the contributors allow us to understand children as consumers more fully by considering their perspectives on the commercial world. In the process children might benefit from having their voices heard. Ideally the contributions in this book will encourage readers to refresh their thinking and research methods by listening to children about how they engage with the commercial environment, but also reconsider when, where and how children need to be protected from its excesses.


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