Every once in a while, you see an example of a campaign or product that demonstrates a little too clearly the negative side of marketing and makes you just a little embarassed about your career choice. If you spend any amount of time watching ads during cartoons on Saturday morning, you’ll pretty quickly see what I mean, since some of the ads targeting very young children are pretty evil. The show fast moving toys, rapid fire voiceovers and are so effective that after every ad break my four year old follows their instructions and comes to me to ask for everything from toxic-wasted coloured yoghurt bars to a new Batcave for his superhero action figures (translation = dollhouse for boys).
None are quite as evil as a product introduced last year by Kellogg’s in what several marketers without kids must have all thought was a great idea … fruit snacks that look like Lego blocks. The products were humorously ridiculed several months ago on a well-read blog called Penny Arcade:
I would love to know what sick bastard at Kellogs came up with this genius idea. I just spent the first three years of my sons life trying to get him not to eat blocks, and now you’re telling him they taste like f***ing strawberries. Thanks a lot a**holes. Seriously, how in the hell did this ever get past their legal department. You can’t tell me that this isn’t a lawsuit just waiting to happen. I can only assume that their next product is fruit flavored thumbtacks.
That post was later picked up by several prominent blogs including The Consumerist and the product is currently the subject of several active discussion boards discussing the relative merit/stupidity of a product like this. Apparently, none of this has affected Kellogg’s plans to continue marketing this product, as it was introduced back in 2007 and seems to still be on the shelves. As a marketer, it’s not easy to watch those Saturday morning ads or read about products like this. Marketing to the under-10 age group is not something that I’m usually asked to do … but as a parent I can’t help thinking this is a "target audience" that should perhaps be off-limits to marketing altogether. What do you think?