Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Junk food marketing to kids...a very serious issue..

This issue was mentioned to me by my friend Vishnu couple of years back, that time he was working in the area which specifically dealt with this issue when he told me about this I didn't think it was that serious or major issue. I used to think that after all most of parents decide what they want to buy and what not for their kids so as long as parents are aware of these things it should not be a big problem, but I was wrong things are not that simple. There is a nice TED talk on this issue by Anna Lappe, I encourage everyone reading this to listen to this talk, it's really educating, she nicely explains from her personal experience how these big food (or junk food) firms strategically target kids to sell their products and develop a brand loyalty. They got their mantra right "catch them young" and once you develop a passion and likeness about your brand among kids you have a loyal customer who will promote and use your product no matter what. Sounds like great marketing strategy of 21st century but somehow I feel that this great marketing mantra which all big corporates are following is invented long long ago by people who wanted to spread their religion or cult movements, these organizations know how well it works so everyone is using this formula to their advantage.

All these big corporates who want to substitute everything on your dining table with products produced by them are pretty successful in doing this, they have already established their brand value and all these brands have huge fan following and loyal customers. We can clearly see that more and more people eat out, don't like to cook their meal in home and amazingly even naturally available, free drink water is substituted by variety of soft drinks, energy drinks and there are so many zero calorie flavored water products sold in market. Because of all this heavy marketing in today's world people prefer to pay money to buy water rather than drinking freely available, easy to purify tap water. Many terms like zero calorie soft drinks (like diet Coke and Pepsi) or chemical free products (I wonder what they mean by this, because even pure water is a chemical) or 100% natural, etc. are used as marketing tricks to attract and mislead customers. These terms are used to make people feel that they are consuming very healthy stuff which is good for their body. There is no limit to what extend these advertisements can go to target their customers and they also use all those popular cartoon characters and very attractive packaging to attract kids to their product. I am not against marketing, they have total right to promote their product and market it to potential customers in fair and legal way but if they purposely target customers who are not in a position to evaluate their product and judge their claims (kids and in some cases teenagers) then it's unfair to target them so aggressively. Even many educated adults also fell prey to many marketing gimmicks then just imagine about kids who don't even know that they are being targeted as potential customers and have no idea about the product which they demand. Once they fall in this trap then it's very difficult to come out of it, this is some sort of addiction, a very bad one but done by using legal means so that no one can question this.

Till now there was no public awareness about what can be the result of this targeted marketing on our society but now we can clearly see the effect of these things on world population, health issues resulting from poor diet choices and sudden change in lifestyle are putting enormous pressure on public health system in various countries (obesity, heart diseases, diabetics are some of examples). For the first time in human history there is a possibility that life expectancy of next generation might be less than their previous generation, and all this because choices they make in their diet and lifestyle, this aggressive advertising has huge influence on choices they make. The issue is serious enough that it should get wide public attention, it should be discussed at every level as population of all ages is going to get affected because of this. Public debate is required and some solid policy making is also required before it becomes too big problem to handle. It's all about our own health and health of our future generations if we don't talk about this then I wonder who will.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. TED talk by Anna Lappe
2. Amount of sugar in some average sized bottles.
3. http://www.sugarstacks.com/

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