Marketers Need Accountability Around Our Children

Once upon a time there was a merry band of Kings and Queens who were very very rich indeed. They had got rich selling magical brown liquid that cost virtually nothing to make in enormous quantities to children. Things were going well, except there were two little problems. Firstly, these Kings and Queens just couldn’t ever be as rich as they wanted to be. However much they had, they always wanted more. Secondly, some pesky troublesome peasants started spoiling their nice little earner by pointing out to anyone who would listen that the magical brown liquid was very harmful and one of the biggest contributors to obesity (especially in America and Europe).

(Some information about just one of these evil Kingdoms from Wikipedia – “Coca-Cola has been criticized for alleged adverse health effects, its aggressive marketing to children, exploitative labor practices, high levels of pesticides in its products, building plants in Nazi Germany which employed slave labor, environmental destruction, monopolistic business practices, and hiring paramilitary units to murder trade union leaders. In October 2009, in an effort to improve their image, Coca-Cola partnered with the American Academy of Family Physicians, providing a $500,000 grant to help promote healthy-lifestyle education; the partnership spawned sharp criticism of both Coca-Cola and the AAFP by physicians and nutritionists.” As just one example.)

They were ready for the fight. They tried everything. They told people they were just being silly and not to listen to nonsense. But still, those pesky peasants kept putting the boot in to their lovely profits. However, these were very clever Kings and Queens and with all the money they had made they could afford to employ even cleverer marketing people – ones with brains but no morals.

Firstly, they took a leaf (sorry about the pun) out of the tobacco Kings’ playbook. They had also suffered from ‘uncomfortable truths’ from pesky peasants. So, they launched themselves on new markets – billions of people in the East who hadn’t heard of the evil properties of the magical brown liquid. Even better, they could be persuaded to believe that this magical liquid made them cool, sophisticated and more like the rich western people they envied.

Still, this wasn’t enough and the rich Kings and Queens always had to worry about those pesky peasants spreading rumours far and wide about their product. They needed another strategy. When it came it was a master stroke – the work of evil genius in the marketing departments – they invented “sports and energy drinks”. Now, as we’ll soon see, you mustn’t be taken in by the name – this was all part of the cleverness.

You see, first of all, they didn’t even have to worry about whether these new magical liquids really did what they claimed. They alleged that they were for ‘athletes’ and people who engage in strenuous exercise. However, common sense only tells us (if we step out of the magic haze for a moment) that there are never enough of those to really justify all the hype, marketing and advertising spend on these new magical liquids. The fundamental trick was the same – load it with tons of sugar to give a ‘feel good spike’, and the desire to keep having more. Then, they got even cleverer – use some fancy gimmicky terms like ‘isotonic’ and you can sell it for prices way higher than the magical brown liquid. In fact, the fact that it was expensive made it even ‘cooler’ and convinced people that it must be smart.

The big trick was, they knew all along that athletes and genuine heavy exercisers would only ever be a tiny part of the real market for this whizzo new liquid. The real market would be young people who didn’t exercise much, but who wanted to be linked with healthy living by association. What a wheeze!! The world fell for it – big time.

Once, a clever salesman for one of these sellers of magical liquids approached a large group of schools in Delhi and Gurgaon, India. “Let us sponsor your soccer tournament for you, so that you can keep all your money for other things. We’ll give all the players fancy shirts (with our name on, of course), we’ll provide these energetic and active young boys and girls free bottles of our wonderful magical liquid that will make soccer heroes of every one of them.”

“Wow, how wonderful,” said the citizens of school land. “This is so generous. They are indeed superb and kind people. We must welcome them with open arms.

On the sidelines, quietly, the clever salesman said to the lead civil servant in school land, “Just two little things. We want to do a workshop for all your PE teachers and sports coaches about young people’s health. They should be encouraging the children about the life-giving properties of our magical liquids. Oh, and we’ll start stocking our magical liquid in your school canteen for sale from now on.”

“Oh ho!! There’s the trick, said the head pesky peasant of school land. They don’t care about sportsmen and women, they just want to get access to sell their evil poison to all our children, not just those who might benefit a little (maybe) when very active physically, but those for whom this would be like a poison. No, our doors are shut. Send him away.”

The good citizens of school land were very angry with the Head Pesky Peasant. Who was he to turn away good money? And, after all, they only wanted a little favour in return.

Around 2 to 3 years have passed since that time. Maybe when the good citizens of school land see this report, they may understand a bit better that they had an escape of sorts;

Teens and Sports and Energy Drinks

Is this an end to it? Will those clever clever marketing people and the Kings and Queens of the soft drinks lands now discover integrity? Will they now stop trying to exploit the young for their profits with products which are downright bad for them?

Well, this Head Pesky Peasant isn’t counting on it. So, I will continue to watch out for their evil deeds and will continue to encourage all my fellow citizens in schools lands far and wide to share the cautionary tales with children – so that they can make wise and good decisions for themselves, not taken in by the greedy Kings and Queens.



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