Sep 062012

A while back, Peter Baker wrote an article titled “You’re all a bunch of fucking morons“, inspired by a conversation about marketing and specifically fast food marketing toward children.
PB had spoken to me about that conversation earlier and I was intrigued, to say the least. (This post was originally written as a “response” for Peter’s site but PB has sat on it for ages and, honestly, I got sick of waiting to see it posted.)

As a relatively new parent (one daughter, just under 2 years old) I have had a fair amount of experience talking with others on similar topics and heard viewpoints like those included in Peter’s conversation many times. I find them very interesting.

Here’s another concept I find very interesting: cognitive dissonance.
Hit up this Wiki-link, read the first paragraph (minimum), then hear me out.

How does that relate? Here’s how I think it does:

  • People want to believe they do what they can to make their kid happy.
  • People want to believe they do what they can to make their kid healthy.
  • People want to believe that when they act contrary to that it is “not their fault”.
  • People love studies that take the blame off them for their actions.

So far, honestly, not that much conflict… but wait…

  • People believe that fast food is unhealthy. (Surprise, they’re (mostly) right!)
  • People believe that big corporations are “all about the bottom line”. (Necessary for capitalist system, comrade!)
  • People believe that they are “above” corporate brainwashing.
  • People believe that giving in to fast food marketing “can’t do much harm”.
Uh oh, this is getting a little harder to sustain…

Juggling all these elements and conflicts can get stressful, just as the Wikipedia paragraph states.
So many parents simply buckle under the load, cop out with a phrase like “what harm can it really do?” (even in the face of rising obesity-linked disease at epidemic levels) and buy the damn fast food.
The sad fact is that these stressed parents are choosing what THEY PERCEIVE as the “best” option; the lowest cost option to both them and child.

Here are a few more sad facts though:

  • Directing your child away from fast food probably should not be so distressing. How often do you practice turning your child toward better choices? Are you that inexperienced at it that a little conflict is terrifying? We get better at what we do…
  • The only marketing that can affect someone (your child) is the marketing they see/encounter.
  • The parent has probably succumbed to fast food marketing just as much as the child.
Most people tend to be quite ignorant regarding marketing.

I know my level of awareness has increased vastly since I took an interest in it about 2 years ago (notice the timing regarding the age of my child… no coincidence).
I believe that if you do not study something and you do not attempt to recognise its patterns and movements, you are unlikely to be able to control its influence to any useful degree.
When that thing is something scientifically proven to affect your decisions and those affecting your child’s desires and wellbeing… that is A Very Bad Thing.

Think of it like deadlifting.

How much marketing you are exposed to is the weight on the bar.
Failing the lift is succumbing to marketing’s message.
Choosing not to lift is ignoring marketing. It works for now, but it doesn’t get you stronger or help you for next time.
Achieving the lift is not IGNORING marketing, but controlling its influence; showing it who is boss!

Can’t lift it right now?

Drop weight (reduce marketing/brand exposure).
Get stronger! How? Train! Learn, practice, apply!
Make a weight that felt hard feel easy and heavier weight will begin to shift, right?

Marketing is everywhere, sure. Every time you have an argument, you’re marketing an idea to another.
But for everyone’s sake and for that of their children, become a savvy consumer and learn to lift some damn weight.