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Cause Marketing to Children

The other day a new friend asked, “Is there such a thing as cause marketing targeted at children?”

Of course cause marketing to kids would be a conundrum. While 4 to12-year-olds influence at least $128 billion in household spending, perhaps 5 percent of that total is money kids can actually spend on their own.

And influence is a fuzzy notion. In my household, for instance, my kids have never influenced me to buy the sugary cereals whose ads run in hot rotation on Nick Jr., although I might ask them whether they prefer Oreos or Pepperidge Farm cookies.

But I couldn’t think of any cause marketing targeted at children so I promised to consult Alden Keene’s voluminous database of cause marketing ads.

I was slightly surprised to find the example above, which comes from the September 2007 SI Kids magazine.

Above is the third page of a three-page ad for retailer JC Penney. The first two pages are in a double-truck configuration and feature NFL player and all-around good guy Michael Strahan, who was still playing for the New York Giants when the ad dropped. Strahan retired before the start of the 2008 season.

JC Penney’s Afterschool Fund, which is organized as a charity, supports Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA of the USA, *National 4-H, United Way and FIRST. Since 1999, JC Penney reports, it has donated more $80 million to after school programs.

JC Penney’s tie-in with the NFL is through the Afterschool Fund’s sponsorship of the ‘Take a Player to School’ sweepstakes whereby school kids can enter to win the chance to bring an NFL player to their school for show and tell.

I’m torn about whether cause marketing aimed at kids could be effective.

But in this specific example, I have a hard time believing that this ad really worked. It just seems too darn earnest. “When you purchase these cool items… all net profits are donated to the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, a charity that provides children in need with access to life-enriching afterschool programs…”

That’s a little syrupy even for my sweet tooth.

As for the offer, the readership of SI Kids is 69 percent boys to 31 percent girls. Given that, I have serious doubts that much of SI Kids readership has been pining for albums from Ashley Tisdale, the cast album of High School Musical, or episodes of That’s So Raven.

In short, the product mix is not quite right and the creative strikes me as being too treacly.

* Full disclosure: Alden Keene has done work for the National 4-H Council.


Mazarine said…
Cause marketing to children does exist. What comes to mind right now is the form of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

But National Geographic for Kids also has features on kids working to make the world a better place, and what they're doing.

I looked at today, and they are also highlighting a teenager working to create schools in Africa.

So as icky as I feel about marketing to kids in general, I think it's good to present role models of kids who are doing something to help others.
Thanks, Mazarine.

Although I'd tend to say that what the Girl Scouts and other youth and student groups do is more rightly called fundraising than cause marketing, I see your point... kids are a considered to be a 'market.'

And there is a certain ickiness to that.

But when the neighbor Girl Scout from across the street came by a few Saturdays back with her sign-up sheet I was amazed at her poise. She's all of nine.

As she came back up the block I asked her how she'd done. Pretty well, it turns out.

Could be she's just graced with equipoise because her parents are a teacher and actor respectively.

Or it could be that the work of going door-to-door selling cookies has taught her something about how to deal with people.

Thanks, again for your comments.

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