Spoiled Teens Deploy Arsenal Of Brand-Specific Nags

Cincinnati Enquirer: American teenagers spend more than $150 billion a year – more than the gross domestic product of Finland, Ireland or Chile.
These eager young consumers are the darlings of marketers, who pump more than $15 billion into getting them to buy everything from Louis Vuitton purses – de riguer for back-to-school this fall – to BlackBerry personal digital assistants.
But their freewheeling spending is causing more than just fights with Mom and Dad over the “need” for that hot new $249 T-Mobile Sidekick cell phone. It’s setting them up for a future financial fall that experts say will reverberate through the economy.
Early overindulgence is leading teens to unrealistic lifestyle expectations, weakening their work ethic and plunging them into disastrous financial practices that will haunt them for life, economists and employers say.
“There’s a disconnect between effort and reward,” said Florida psychologist Gary Buffone, author of the book “Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and Wise in a Land of Plenty.” “Over time kids don’t learn to deal with frustration well. They’re used to getting what they want when they want it. And there’s a loss of energy, ambition and motivation.”
Buffone said families of all incomes succumb to overindulgence. “Spoiling kids isn’t tied to a parent’s net worth as much as to a style of parenting,” he said. “It’s where parents rely more on things and money than on direct involvement with their kids. It’s a kind of selling out.”
Former Texas A&M University marketing professor James McNeal said it starts early, when babies are first taken to the mall at the median age of two months. It bears fruit when they begin asking for brand-name cereal at age 2, and gathers clout in primary school when 92 percent of their pestering is name-brand requests. By high school, it’s in full bloom when teens trek to the mall 54 times annually to everyone else’s 39 times, and know that an average of nine “nag attacks” will lead parents to reach for the plastic.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.