Brand Name Products in Schooling Environments

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What Effect Does This Have on Children?

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According to Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics children are exposed to 40,000 TV ads a year. More than 160 magazines are targeted to children. Industries spent more than 21.6 million on internet banner ads in 2002. Children start to see ads as soon as they wake up and right till they go to bed. Advertisements are everywhere. Where do children spend most of their time though? Well school of course. You would think that in school they would be away from the television, video games, and other things, so they must be safe from advertisements. That is just not the case though.

The purpose of this blog is to inform parents and teachers of the effect of brand named products in the schooling environment. Since the increase of technology, there are more opportunities for children to be exposed to advertisements that can entice them to buy brand named products. Children have become a main target as consumers for advertisers, and it is important to make them aware of their vulnerability.  Since parents cannot monitor their children 24/7, it is important for teachers to inform their students of brand named products in school.
This is an issue due to budget cuts in the school system. Schools are struggling to fund important programs and advertising allows the to get these funds.In an article from Press Quad Community Press a Minnesota school voted against putting ads in hallways and on lockers that would have brought over $90,000 in six months.  The board said it would be distracting and cheapen the school environment, but one mother said she would rather have her child look at an ad on a crayon box than not have an art class at all. In a Fox news article, many schools are doing this even selling their naming rights to their auditorium. Critics are saying though schools should not promote brand name products and impressionable children should not be bombarded with school advertisements.  These funds pay for many services that children need though. Parents say just teach your kids about smart shopping and buy products with a well known history, but it isn’t that easy. Schools have ultimate control and they can use safe ads such as a local bank promotion on a school bus.
There are different pros and cons for school advertising. The main pro of course is money. Schools need it in order to provide the best programs available. The cons on the other hand can be broken into four groups. In an article from eHow Money the author states that the three major cons are privacy concerns, distracting curriculum, and conflicting messages. Privacy concerns come into play because advertisers exchange money or computers in return for children’s information for marketing research. A distracting curriculum comes form workbooks featuring know cartoon characters which could distract them from the actual school material. Conflicting messages comes from teaching a child about health and nutrition in school and then walking down the hallway only to see ads for candy and junk food. Finally self-esteem when a child does not have the name brand product like everyone else he/she may feel excluded.
So now you know about about it, but how exactly does it work? Theoretically how can you understand what happens? The remainder of the blog discuses two theories Symbolic Interactionism and Looking Glass-Self as well as discussions and statistics, and finally an activity. After reading I would hope your understanding of these theories can help you better point out harmful advertisements and know their effects.
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Back To School Savings

At the end of every summer, kids and parents hit the stores for all their back to school needs; clothes, school supplies, lunch food, etc. The National Retail Federation’s 2010 Consumer Intentions and Actions Back to School survey found that the average spending on back to school clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics was $606.40. Year after year those kids are running for the latest and greatest supplies with their new favorite television or movie series character on them.

When comparing name brand and store brand items, an average of $133.82 is spent on back to school name brand items whiles only $86.30 was spent on store brand school supplies. That is an average savings of $47.52. The items are the same thing and allow students to get homework done just as well, but some just have Angry Birds plastered all over them and some are just blue. With savings like these, you already have over half of the money you need next year for back to school shopping.

In 2009, Consumer Reports’ senior project editor for ABC Good Morning America, Mandy Walker, helped find out what type of brand costumers preferred. She compared name brand and store brand prices of pizza, salsa, cookies, and other various grocery items. In all the items she found that not only was the price better, but the taste was too. Also, customers could save an average of $1,200 a year switching to the store brand. Also, what some customers don’t know is that most of the store brands are actually made by the name brand companies.

Some of the savings shoppers had in 2011 were notebooks and glue sticks that were 77 percent cheaper than a national brand, store brand pencils were 62 percent cheaper, tape was a 39 percent saving, and ballpoint pens were a 29 percent savings.

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Scholastic Schools!

The school supply and book club company Scholastic is one of the most popular advertising companies present inside the classroom, and many times it’s because the teachers place it before student’s eyes.  Basically, Scholastic Book Clubs, joined by teachers, are class-room kick-back programs that award teachers for their students purchasing materials. So naturally any materials or funds that can be saved from the book clubs is an immediate appeal to teachers…..less coming out of their pocket, as long as more comes out of parents’. These clubs primarily advertise  through magazines they put out a monthly, which are littered with advertisements and product placements designed to grab kids’ attention, and hopefully the money of parents.  Recognizable characters and images make this fun for kids, and makes them see the flyer and it’s products as break from whatever lesson is being taught.

In this particular section, we explored what people would either buy from these catalogs based on what images they immediately recognized and grabbed their attention.  We then discussed how in thoroughly looking at the catalogs, there are some viable and useful products that aid in the development of a child.  Theoretically it is the responsibility of the teacher to highlight these products that would not usually get noticed.

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Class Discussion!

Along with the theory of symbolic interactionism and looking-glass self, the phrase “cradle to grave” is a technique used by marketers in order to get children involved and interested in their products from an early age of life. The goal of  marketers is to turn children in to life-long consumers.  Knowing this background information, we can relate cradle to grave to symbolic interactionism and looking-glass self because since children are being influenced by these advertisements at such a young age, they can commonly mis-interpret the symbols and meanings behind these advertisements, thus falling victim to the cradle to grave scenario. Discussion questions originated from Media Education Foundation Study Guide–Consuming Kids (2008).

Discussion #1- Do you think its reasonable to assume that people (especially children) can be transformed at an early age to become “life-long consumers” ?

Our second discussion question surfaced on the topic of generic (store brand) products vs. licensed products (i.e. spongebob squarepants backbpack, spiderman pencils, etc.). One way marketers gain advantage, or interest of children is by using their favorite or most popular television characters from shows onto products in the store. These characters can be explained as a sense of familiarity or belonging, therefore by putting them onto school supplies makes children most likely favor those products over the generic (cheaper) products.

Discussion #2- How do you think using television/cartoon characters in school supply products benefits the marketer? What kind of impact do you think this has on a child that does not always buy licensed products (i.e. backpacks, pencils, notebooks, etc.) ?

HINT- try to remember a time in elementary/early education when someone else had something really cool that you didn’t have? For example, in our first class presentation, one student raised the point about plastic lunchboxes and how they had different movie characters on them. He explained that the “cool” kids had the plastic lunchboxes, and if you didn’t have one then you were seen as un-cool.


Works Cited:



Barbaro, A., & Earp, J. (2008). Consuming kids: The commercialization of childhood. Media Education Foundation Study Guide

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Looking-glass Self

The theory of the looking-glass self is a part of symbolic interactionim. As stated in A First Look at Communication Theory, the looking-glass self is “the mental self-image that results from taking the role of the other”(Griffin p.63. 2008), in other words, it is how we think others see us. For example, little Billy’s family cannot afford brand name products, so he might start to feel self-conscious and that his peers will see him as un-cool or unintelligent just based on what he owns. Kids may not verbally label each other, but they start to have a sense of insecurity and doubt themselves, just because they do not have the latest and greatest things.

It is important, as future educators, to be aware of symbolic interactionism and the looking-glass self because of how easy it is for people to misinterpret what one may think or say to another. Young children have vulnerable minds; therefore it is necessary to inform them that the items they own do not dictate who they are as learners or as people.



2. Griffin, E. (2008). Communication: A first look at communication theory (7thed.) Boston: McGraw-Hill



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Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic Interactionism is the theory of people interacting with each other through symbols such as words and gestures. Human beings react to things based on the meanings they have created for them. For example, when children see a SpongeBob Squarepants poster with the ABC’s on it they could start associating SpongeBob with learning. The use of posters and signs in the classroom can be extremely beneficial to children’s learning, but it can also send the wrong message, all depending on the images teachers choose to use. Take the SpongeBob example, a positive to hanging an ABC’s poster with images of SpongeBob having a blast with the letters could encourage children to want to learn their ABC’s because SpongeBob does. A negative factor of having this well known brand names product in an educating environment is that it could be a distraction and the kids will see past the learning aspect and only focus on the fun.

This is an example of Symbolic Interactionism because the symbols on the posters teacher display in their classrooms, or the advertisements that are presented through the hallways of schools, portray certain messages that could distract students from learning. Here is a video clip from a movie called Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood. This clip shows how advertising in classrooms has become extremely frequent and a negative aspect in schools.

(Start video at 21:54 and end at 24:20)


This video makes it clear and known that advertisers are purposely targeting children as their main consumers and it is now haunting them in the schools. The pressure to own the most popular school supplies and clothes can alter the primary purpose as to why kids go to school, which is to learn.





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