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November 8, 2007

Brand Recognition in the Womb?

Trendwatching.com just posted an article called "Generation Z," a quote from which caught my eye:

    First of all, no generation in the history of mankind can be made to embrace brands with such eagerness by exposing them to specific brand benefits. Consider this research nugget: a Swiss study has found that when sufficiently exposed to child-friendly brand jingles, tunes and spoken messages during pregnancy, up to 77% of all newborns not only recognize these brand markers, but develop a brand preference that could last until puberty, and probably into adulthood (final results are not yet available as the project only started two years ago). Furthermore, an astounding 23% of infant participants could indicate at least 9 out of 12 favorite brands using rudimentary hand signals.

Now, as it happens, this article is a spoof. Or, at least, it's meant to be a spoof -- there's no such study, and Trendwatching isn't really advocating marketing to children in the womb. And while we would find it fascinating if babies could really recognize brand names just because their mothers had heard them when pregnant, we're not in favor of it, either.

Shocked_Kidz.gifNevertheless, it appears that Trendwatching isn't far off the mark. Children develop brand awareness very early. In 2005, the Amsterdam School of Communications Research published a study entitled "Identifying determinants of young children's brand awareness: Television, parents, and peers ." To quote from the abstract, "Two- to three-year-olds recalled only 1 out of 12 brands, whereas they recognized 8 out of 12 brands."

Are you scared yet? The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is. Their 28-page booklet, "The Facts about Marketing to Kids" makes the point that very young children can't distinguish between commercials and program content, and adds that six-month-old babies are "forming mental images of corporate logos and mascots."

Programs for educating infants don't seem nearly as successful as those intended to fixate them on buying things, because infant brains are better at recognizing sounds and shapes than at comprehending social values. (Hat tip to the Faux Real blog .)

This would be good news for the naming industry -- if we didn't care about letting our children grow up to be able to decide for themselves whether a name or a product is a good one.

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Posted by William Lozito at November 8, 2007 11:37 AM
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