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Branded: The Buying And Selling Of Teenagers


Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

Alissa Quart's Branded highlights the corporate marketing strategies aimed at teenagers and pre-teen (tween) consumers. It's no surprise to hear that most teenagers have mobile phones and a voracious appetite for designer labels or that, in the US, corporations spend billions of dollars to woo them.

Indeed, US schools have long since been sponsored by corporations but what Quart fears is that the current growth of corporate sponsorship in UK schools, if continued at the present rate, makes it increasingly likely that in a few years time there will be little difference between them. Despite the fact that, as recently as 1996, parents and politicians fiercely resisted the idea of advertising in schools, corporations have taken advantage of a recent initiative that saw businesses partnering-up with "under performing" schools. Since then, according to Quart, the doors have opened for branded school supplies and--given the ingenuity and determination of corporate strategists and the na´vetÚ of the educational authorities--the corporate insinuation into our children's minds begins as soon as they leave mother's apron strings.

The heart of the book is very interesting indeed, describing as it does the actual tactics employed by the youth marketing industry and the required mindset necessary to be among the best employees. For instance, at the 2003 Kid Power event in London, conference organisers instructed attendees in how to harness "the power of word of mouth", how to ensure their products are "the talk of the playground", how to get past the "gatekeeper" (Mum and Dad), and to be aware of the influence of "pester power". The marketers wear the clothes of youth, befriend the kids as part of their job, milk them for information on what's hot and what's not and generally get the jump on their competitors by encouraging brand loyalty from as early an age as possible. The book is laced with the views of the teens and 'tweens' themselves as well as personal recollections of Quart's own tween years to add historical perspective.

On the whole Branded is earnest, well written and a little depressing--despite the final section focusing on examples of anti-corporate attitudes and activities among the kids. Readers of Naomi Klein's No Logo will find nothing surprising here, but it's a useful weapon (or rebuke) for parents afflicted with savvy, brand-afflicted teens. --Larry Brown

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