Unilever, the company behind positive-image campaigns like the Dove Real Beauty campaign, recently launched Degree Girl, a new deodorant line marketed specifically to teen girls. The ad campaign, descriptively labeled “OMG!”, touts the deodorant’s ability to help every girl keep their calm in embarrassing or awkward situations. The Degree Girl website features bright pink and neon- colored graphics, and characters worthy of a preschool cartoon. If I was anywhere over the age of ten, I’d be either insulted, or too bored to explore the site. So who exactly are we marketing to? The 13-year old who actually just developed a miniscule amount of body odor, or her 8-year old sister who wants to grow up to be just like her? If Unilever is anything like Toyota, they know exactly what they’re doing, and are aiming to secure the loyalty of both sisters’ armpits, for life.
If we think it’s a little premature to advertise deodorant to a preteen audience, how about cars to Jr. High’ers? Hey, Toyota didn’t think so when marketing the Scion, when they paid for product placement in Whyville.net, an online interactive community used almost exclusively by 8-15 year-olds. Creating early brand loyalty long before the consumer is ready to buy a product is nothing new, and a tactic increasingly used by marketers.
“It’s early branding,” says Mathew Diamond, chief executive of Alloy Media and Marketing, an agency that specializes in youth marketing, in an article titled, “Hey kid, want to buy a Toyota Scion?”.
“You are branding your product at a relevant time to the young person. You’re establishing that brand presence and positive association, since important buying decisions are forthcoming.” No wonder American advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year on advertising messages aimed at the youth market, according to a study conducted by an APA task force in 2000.
So, early marketing affects not only current consumer habits, but future ones as well. But wait, it doesn’t stop there! Before little Billy is at the stage where he needs antiperspirant, or even braces, who’s doing his shopping for him? That’s right, you got it, Mom and Dad. We all know the power of a whiny kid, and Toyota was betting was betting on this, with their Scion brand placement.
But hey, the truth of the matter is, kids are maturing at a faster rate than before, and Unilever is probably actually filling an important need. So, all those sweaty pubescent can thank Degree Girl for coming to their rescue. And Mom can thank God that Degree Girl only costs $2.42, because money’s tight with the new Scion payments.