11 August 2007

Pre Mature Adults: Coffee and Donuts/Feb 07/ Anupama WaghKoppar, JWT Planning, Delhi

Pre Mature Adults
Are we raising our child consumers right?

By 2020 50% of India’s population will be under 35. Already, one-third of our population is under the age of 15 - which is clearly the reason why marketers are both targetting and using children in communication.

Are we reaching out to kids with adult messages and adding to an environment that is pushing them to grow up sooner than required? Are we developing a generation of cynics – and consequently a trap for ourselves, as they will pose greater challenges to marketers than any previous generation?

A few basic psychological truths about children

§ They consume messages in black and white without deeper processing.
§ They live life in the present and do not think about the future.
§ They may desire independence, but they also like to have clear guidelines as they cannot logically prioritize their activities.
§ They learn behavior from observation and shape their attitudes from role models.
§ They learn and experience through all the five senses as the cognitive abilities are just developing. Over-exposure leads to sensory overload, causing confusion and learning disability.

Signs and symptoms in the environment

§ Spaghetti strap dresses, tank tops and low waist jeans are more desirable than flowery frocks and little smock dresses.
§ Beyblade and play laptops are more exciting than the winding of the humble tops.
§ Vindictive dialogues and steamy lyrics are more top of mind than nursery rhymes.
§ Winning the grand prize at the birthday party is much more important than rolling on the grass and throwing pastries at one another.
§ Unnatural expectations of being super all rounders
§ Too many activities, too many choices, too much competition, leaving little room for unstructured play.
§ Exposure to adult messages before they are far from emotionally ready to handle the responsibility that comes with it.


What is PMA syndrome?

When kids behave like adults or clearly beyond their age and are not mentally ready to handle the consequences of their behavior or rationalize the experience.

Children learn through the process of socialization of which purchasing occasion is also one. Whether they shop alone or jointly with their parents, such occasions lend to imparting experiences necessary for their growing up and upbringing. Positive experiences are critical as negative experiences can make the child cynical about brands.


§ Destruction of sense of awe: one that keeps the mind fresh and open to things. Knowing too much too soon kills the joy of discovering taking away the excitement.
§ Role ambiguity : conflicting messages from parents and society creates confusion in childrens minds about their role and how they should conduct themselves. This create loss of confidence and complexes in a child’s psyche.
§ Limiting creativity and imagination : doing all the thinking for them and making everything available on a platter is bound to slow down their mind.
§ Growing cynicism : becoming bitter from the experiences in the past and prematurely disappointed in the future (Sidney J Harris). The accessibility and sensory overload gives rise to cynicism. These children will struggle to find something that is meaningful in life.
§ Affecting sense of self-worth: having to be an all rounder all the time destroys the sense of worth and cause individuals to become disillusioned


§ Brands will find it difficult to become iconic, for this needs consumers who are positive, love themselves and find expression of their identity in brands.
§ Brands will find it more difficult to build credibility around their propositions.
§ Brands will increasingly face not just lack of commitment but indifference.
THEREFORE : The need to walk the tight rope between being strategist and counsellor.


1. Retain the innocence in messages – resist the temptaion to layer messages with implied meanings and depiction of grey areas.
2. Be simple in delivering the messages – simple words and message reduce the confusion and increase effectiveness.
3. Be truthful – compromise product truth, and risk being seen through.
4. Be contextual - set the context for claims clearly.
5. Use symbolic language carefully –colour, sound, dress or body language.Do not confuse or over sensitize the child.
6. Help them decide- rather than trying to lure them.

Let’s attempt to raise balanced and happy consumers just like we attempt to raise our children.

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