Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Branding my Kid

I’ve worked in advertising most of my adult life. I’ve even worked on a few well known kids’ brands. I was still shocked by the amount of branded baby gear out there. When I first got pregnant I spent a lot of time searching online for the perfect nursery room set. I knew my child would be inundated with brand messages all his life. But does it really have to start as soon as they exit the womb? I mean do you really want the first thing they see clearly to be a Disney character mobile? I didn’t. So my guy’s nursery was decorated in a great blue, red, folksy farm animal nursery set.

His life hasn’t been brand free. But we’ve been selective and careful not to inundate him too soon.

Fast forward to today. We will be celebrating our guy’s 2nd birthday in a few weeks. And I’m surprised that he is already developing his own brand loyalty. No outside marketing. Just word of mouth from things in his everyday life. And I have to admit most of it is our own fault.

It will be no surprise to my husband’s family that his first brand love is Lego. His Dad has been obsessed with it since his own childhood. And you can see by the photo of his 1970’s space collection, that that obsession continues today. Our guy started to play with his own Lego at about 18 months. Today one of his favourite toys is his “Lego truck”. He knows when there are pieces missing. And loves to get me to read the little “Lego book” that came with the toy and he points to the different pieces and names them, ie: horsie, tractor, doggie. Now at this point he really doesn’t understand the brand promise or competitive differentiation of Lego vs other similar products like Mega Blocks. But he knows this building stuff is something he really likes and will happily point it out when he sees it in a store, picture or at a friend’s house. And interestingly he hasn’t mistaken any other building toy brands for Lego.

The 2nd brand in his life are his crocs. He knows the difference between boots and shoes….and his crocs. He knows the crocs are different than the other shoes and asks for them accordingly. When he loses one he shouts out “crocs”. This way we know he is without a shoe. My theory here is that he likes to name the shoes he can put on by himself – boots and crocs. He will pull on either and run around the house to let Mommy know he wants to go to the park or outside. In this case I think his brand association has developed as a way to show off and get what he wants… to go to the park.

Finally our little guy LOVES trains. My husband got a couple of Thomas the Train books at the church garage sale. And since then we constantly hear “choo, choo, choo…”. After a few months of static book trains we decided to let him see some moving trains on TV. At 22 months this was our guy’s first introduction to TV. And each day he asks for his 10 minutes of “Train… TV… Train… TV”. I tried to show him Mighty Machines and Bob the Builder. But NO. Only “Train… choo choo” will do. He loves to sit on the couch with Mommy or Daddy and watch his trains. In this case I’m not really sure if he is in love with “Thomas and his friends” or just trains in general. But I know that the song is still stuck in my head.


  1. Yeah, those singing English kids make be want to barf, "They're 2, they're 4, they're 6..."

    I'm with you on being "brand neutral", but I think there is a difference between product brands and pop-culture brands. I know they two can blur though - McDonald Land for example, and there is a lot of Thomas merch you can buy.

    Generally we have a bit less trouble with pop-culture brands like Batman, Transformers, Spider-man (spot a trend? The Boy loves superheros) b/c they spark imagination and play. Where Old Navy doesn't.

    My point? I don't have one, just like typing.

  2. There are lots of lines to be blurred... like Elmo on a crib mobile is evil to me, but as a stuffed dancing toy for a 3 year old probably okay (actually may still be evil but because I won't be able to keep song out of my head).

    And thanks for making me laugh oh pointless one.