Corporate world makes no bones about selling to kids

22:13, Aug 19 2014

Ah the children, the tamariki, the little innocents, the ones we are charged to look after, how bright the future looks for them, and that is partly thanks to the aptly named New World.

Every few months I drive across Christchurch to the New World supermarket in Stanmore Rd, where the staff are charming (though the earthquakes turned the car park into a choppy sea). I go there for the frozen bones, the best in town, neat and meaty and meant for soup. I give them to the dog which is why he's so fat. The bones aren't cheap but what price do you put on a dog's happiness?

Because the supermarket is 20 minutes away, I buy a freezerful of bones each time. As I wheel my trolley out the door I look like a successful Siberian palaeontologist.

When I went there once near the end of last year, the woman on the checkout cracked a joke as she scanned my bones. (Like you, I shun the automatic tellers, partly because they're bewilderingly hi- tech, but mainly because they tell no jokes. Give me flesh, blood and a giggle.)

I swiped my loyalty card - though I am loyal only to the bones; were they not there, nor would I be - and then my eftpos card, and, by a process I find magical, a wad of cash I had never held, that existed indeed only as an electronic pulse in a computer, went from my account to theirs. By way of proof I received a docket that entitled me to a discount on my next tankful of petrol, assuming that I bought the right brand of petrol and had the docket with me. The chance of either of these things happening is small. The chance of them happening simultaneously is infinitesimal. So I biffed the docket. Life is too short to seek 4 cents off petrol.

I was about to head away when Ms Checkout asked whether I'd like a gift.


"Why, thank you," I exclaimed and she handed me a miniature deodorant stick. It was of a brand that the All Blacks plug.

Back home I fed the dog then pressed, shook, twisted and squeezed the deodorant. Nothing happened. It seemed to be a dud deodorant. But if life is too short to save 4 cents on petrol it's even more too short to fret over dud deodorant. I binned the thing and forgot about it. Until, that is, I learned from the Sunday Star-Times that "New World's Little Shop is back".

It seems that my dud deodorant wasn't alone. There was also dud Marmite, dud Whittaker's chocolate, a dud Pump water bottle and so on, all for the delight of children. The idea was that junior could imitate grocery shopping.

So popular was the promotion that "despite being technically forbidden, onselling the toys to get a complete set was rampant, and individual toys . . . reached exorbitant prices on Trade Me . . . and a Facebook page dedicated to swapping the groceries attracted 1470 members". And so New World are bringing it back.

And I, for one, am delighted. It is so comforting to see the old traditions being maintained, such as the idea of using children to put pressure on their parents to shop. When I was a child, for example, the brand of tea my mother bought came with a card from the series "Animals of Africa", which I loved.

From these cards I learned about the oryx, the tapir and other beasts, the knowledge of which has since proved invaluable on safari in the land of crosswords.

If my mother had tried to change her brand of tea she would have to deal with a furious youngest son.

But while I have remembered the tapir I have forgotten the brand of tea. There will be no such danger with New World's Little Shop. The things given to the children to collect are the very brands themselves. And thus tomorrow's consumers are created.

Marketing to children is as old as marketing itself. They are such splendid customers with their lack of critical judgment, their trust in adults and their slavery to their appetites.

Best of all, they have many years of spending ahead of them. If you can pin an idea in their heads so that it becomes an unquestioned part of the mental furniture, you can reap the rewards for decades to come.

The churches have been doing it for centuries. Now the corporations have taken up the torch. How bright the future looks.

The Dominion Post