Friday, March 21, 2008

Marketing 101 for the younger set

A few weeks ago while Beth was sitting on the potty with her training pants around her knees, she noticed the Gerber tag in the back and asked, "Mommy, why is there a baby on my undahweaw?"

"That's the brand of underwear, Bethie," I told her, anticipating one of her big worries in life. "The company that makes them puts a baby on everything they make. It doesn't mean the underwear is for babies. It's for big girls."

"Oh." She pondered this. "They're not for Baby Sarah."

"No, they're not for Sarah. They're made by a company called Gerber, and they use a picture of a baby to tell you that they made the underwear." This was quickly getting waaaay over her head, so I dropped it and she went about her (ahem) business. But she didn't forget, and every time she sees that darn baby she says, "That's the brand," and I've started wondering how much of Marketing 101 for the Young Consumer I really should be teaching her. I mean, she's not even quite three.

She noticed the tag on the inside of her turtleneck the other day, and asked about it.

"That's the brand of clothing it is, Bethie. See the letters?" She pointed out the G, the A, and the P. "That spells 'Gap.' Did we buy this shirt at Gap?" Vigorous nod. "Every store that sells something wants you to remember where you bought it, so they put something on it that tells you what brand it is."

"Oh! My undahweaw has the brand."

I'm reminded of a story my grandmother likes to tell about my dad when he was a teenager. (Keep in mind, Grandma has her master's in home ec. and didn't finish her Ph.D. when she disagreed with her adviser about the subject of her dissertation. She taught clothing and textiles at BYU, and though my mom taught me to sew and follow a pattern, Grandma taught me not to be afraid to make my own patterns. My relationship with the woman is tense at best, but she's tough and smart and there are a lot of things I admire her for.) This was the 1950s, and everyone at BY High School was wearing Joyce shoes and Jantzen sweaters. Grandma figured that both trendy brands were cheaply made, dressed her kid in clothes that would last, and told him to look for quality instead of bowing to trends. Fast-forward to a point when someone asked Dad if the sweater he was wearing was Jantzen.

"No," Dad said. "This is real quality."

(Grandma's right, by the way: I had a pair of off-white Joyce pumps in college, and they were possibly the worst pair of shoes I've ever owned.)

Beth and I haven't had any discussions yet about trends, product quality, advertising, PR, or market segmentation. But (you know me) we will.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

Needed: a toddler version of "Microserfs," pronto.

And: huh. My kids have expressed zero curiosity about the tags on their clothes, other than using them to tell if their shirts are on backwards or not. Which, you gotta admit, is rather useful.