Group 3’s presentation on viral marketing was an interesting look at the “non-traditional” ways in which advertising messages are spread. I am somewhat skeptical of the term “stealth marketing” since most of it is not actually that stealthy. Most commercials and billboards don’t have disclaimers saying “this is an ad,” but we can figure it out. The same goes for product placement in television shows, films, and video games. The NBC sitcom 30 Rock often makes fun of what are usually not-so-subtle ads within the media.
But it is certainly true that marketing methods have become more sophisticated. They are always looking to target more specific network. One of the points discussed in class was reasons for why children are targeted. Prof. Hayden mentioned that although kids aren’t making many purchases while they’re young, they can still develop loyalty to a brand that sticks for life. I think an additional reason that was not touched on is children’s desire to fit in with their peers. Most commonly associated with adolescence, this desire seems to begin as early as elementary school and last through college. As a kid when I came home from school, I was constantly telling my mom about the snack everyone else was eating and the sneakers they all had. I might have never been attracted to those products on my own, but suddenly I needed them.
Kids are important advertising targets because word-of-mouth and opinion leadership techniques are wildly successful in their networks. Whereas an adult might observe some friends wearing a Northface jacket and consider buying one, a child would simply have to have it. These network clusters are jam-packed with marketing influence. And now these networks are becoming larger and even more-interconnected as more and more children use smartphones and social media.
The members of Group 3 also pointed out that despite concerns about the ethics of such viral marketing campaigns aimed at children, there has yet to be any real response from the Federal Trade Commission. Will giant corporations continue to have free reign in their marketing campaigns? I believe that they will, at least in the United States, where concerns about privacy are less important than economic success.