Saturday, July 9, 2011

Convince Kids that Healthy Has Authority

Children are vulnerable. To maintain your right to ask for support from your consumer communities, you’ve an ethical obligation to guide younger consumers in those communities toward healthier choices.
     As a set of articles in the current Journal of Consumer Behaviour reports, the relationships between children and healthy choices is a conflicted one throughout the world and across children’s age ranges. When it comes to food, for example, researchers at NOVA School of Business and Economics in Portugal find that, in general, children 7 to 8 years of age know what is healthy and what’s not and think it is good to eat healthy foods, but also think it’s great fun to rebel against being healthy.
     Researchers at Boston College found that asking children 8 to 12 years old to read nutritional information on food packages made them less likely to choose the healthier alternatives. It seemed to be a matter of the children vying for control.
     Consumer behavior experts from University of Calgary conducted focus groups with 225 children from various parts of Canada. The children were asked to discuss the differences between “kids food” and “adult food.” These young consumers said kids food was more likely to be sugary and come in unusual shapes and colors, while adult food was more likely to be plain, easily recognizable fruits, vegetables, and meats.
     When the focus group moderators probed deeper with the children, the moderators found that, as in the NOVA study, the children in the Calgary study thought it was a prerogative of childhood to rebel against being healthy. But there was also clear evidence that the children recognized adult food as giving opportunities for pushing beyond society’s demands to be healthy. You can rebel as an adult.
     From the perspective of developmental psychology, an important difference in the child’s mind between rebelling as a child and rebelling as an adult is that the adult does it with more authority. The way the retailer can fulfill the ethical obligation to guide younger consumers toward healthy habits is to associate those habits with having more authority.
     When discussing purchase choices with the parents, also look at the child periodically. With some children, it works well to crouch down. If the child asks questions, answer in terms the child can understand and with no hint of ridicule. What seems obvious to an adult might be puzzling to a blooming consumer.

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Educate Children as Consumers

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