By Ashmita Sengupta:
India is a nation obsessed with children. In every part, every nook and corner of this country, parents are sacrificing all in the hope that their children lead better and more comfortable lives. But how much comfortable is too comfortable, remains an open ended question.
Ever since the economic reforms of 1991, foreign investments have behaved like fairy dust to our country. A whiff of foreign investments here and there, and magically, people became happier. The great Indian middle class suddenly had a lot more money at hand, and thus grew India’s great story of consumerism.
20 years later, advertisers and marketers are having the time of their lives. Children have turned out to become their most important demographic. ‘Pester Power’ has risen out of nowhere become their favorite client.
With the direct exposure to media and hard advertising, kids have become more aware and informed. By the age of 5, they have becomeÂ brand sensitive. Â By the age of 8, their parents are going to be consulting them to help them decide which laptop to purchase and while at the age of 12, the children will be calling shots on the family holiday destination.
So it come as no shock when school going children are equipped with their own android phones, iPods, Nintendo’s and DSLR’s. Sharing crayons has replaced sharing applications. Long gone are the days when kids would shout out to their friends across playgrounds, blackberry messengers are the way to communicate. Even at this age, peer pressure forces the rest of their peer group to follow suit. And what we are left with is an entire generation stuck in the perennial state of want.
In this bubble we have created for ourselves, the value of money has clearly been lost. All that today’s child has to do is throw a tantrum, or strike a deal with the parent to get around their way. The working parent’s guilt for being unable to spend time with their kid, or guilt for pushing them too far academically breeds the perfect ground for children to demand their requirements.
Consumerism has driven India into an elite class. It has helped pump money into our markets which has inadvertently led to some unbelievable growth, no doubt. But it’s as much as the social responsibility of the industry, as it is of the Indian parent. It needs to be ensured that advertising a product remains purely a promotion, and not brainwashing of the innocent mind. The child will believe what we lead him to believe, and such behaviour is just plain exploitation of their position.
This cycle of video games, iPods, junk food and endless academic pressure is just leading us down the American way. If this form of pampering from the Indian family continues, obesity and behavioural issues will not only become a national concern, but might just also alter our way of life for the worse.
The world of the 21st century is a vicious one. But do we really need to force children to graduate into consumers at such a tender age? Can we not forgo a few profits and refrain from making children brand conscious in hope that they might continue being customers at an adult age? Doesn’t it make more sense to raise children into socially, economically and financially sound adults in their own pace?
We need to ensure that children grow up to become sensible consumers who buy to their need, and not for the advertisements.
There is no way to run from this consumer driven society, but there is a way to keep it under check. We need to be careful, and we need to be smart; because to rephrase Ogilvy’s, “The consumer is not a moron. She is your kid.” (original quote: The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife).