Thursday, 24 February 2011


My daughter has started a new school, and along with other pressures comes the need to be seen as ‘a good mum’.

Last Friday she announced she needed a blue nose. A request like this usually implies an entire costume is required at breakneck speed for an assembly or charity day.

‘What do you need it for? I’m not sure I have a blue eyeliner…’

‘Not a blue nose Mummy! A Blue Nose! It’s an animal with a blue nose – everyone in my class has one, but Emily says if you don’t want to, she will ask her mum to get me one.’

Okaaay. I look slyly at Lily. Does she realise she has just performed the most perfect piece of pester power on me? She smiles sweetly, ‘It’s true – she says she won’t mind!’

Five minutes later we’re at the toyshop. Bluenoses are ugly, unimaginative ‘plush’ creatures with dead eyes. I know it, she knows it. She keeps glancing furtively at the Sylvanian Family section. She’s wanted a Dalmatian baby for a while now….

I suggest a Blue Nose key ring – visible the whole time on her bag but only £1.99. She accepts and I then buy her the Dalmatian baby anyway simply because she didn’t ask for it – bizarrely the second most perfect piece of pester power.

The reason I seem so weak is because I actually don’t have a problem with school crazes – they’re part of school life, and more often than not, they occur organically rather than are brand driven. I’ve asked around – the passion for Blue Noses isn’t replicated at any other schools around here – nor was the obsession with Mighty Beanz last year in my son’s class. Yes, they are designed as kid’s collectibles, but I think it just takes a couple of kids to kick-start it - and the herd follows.

But what happens to my point of view when a pester is clearly brand driven – usually through advertising or a website? I feel my shackles rising. Nothing annoys me more than a request for an obscure item that I must then go and research – only to find more stuff aimed at seducing kids. So how am I feeling about the brand now? What emotions am I attaching to it?

Ultimately, I still hold the purse strings, and nine times out of ten I will say no on principle. Yes, I know I’m tough, but I’m sure those parents who give in do so under duress rather than through warm feelings towards the brand.

By all means talk to the kids – but talk to the parents too. At my agency (1000heads) we go further than that. We will not target kids under 16 at all. [] We speak to parents, communities and schools – in a language which seeks to inform, stresses the benefits and ultimately results in a positive attitude towards the brand. Instead of a one-way pester, you get a two-way conversation.

It’s an ethical decision – but a smart one too!

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