“Hi Siri. How are you today?”

“I feel good,” British-voice-Siri replies.

My wife and I had arrived at our son’s college campus and we were hungry. “Siri, where can I find a sandwich around me?”

“OK, here’s what I found…”

Within three seconds of my inquiry, Siri located a half-dozen restaurants where we could get a sandwich within a ten minute walk. Technology is amazing!

The other day I was shopping for jeans and shoes online. Later, I logged on to Facebook and was greeted with Levi’s Jeans and Clarks shoe ads. My browser also remembered my consumer preferences by showing those same ads. While some my age (Baby Boomers) might find invisible gatherers of personal preferences and habits unsettling, it doesn’t seem to phase Millennials in the least. And corporate marketing to today’s crop of children and young teens “has proven to be effective at increasing a child’s preference and consumption of advertised foods,” according to mother and Washington Post writer Casey Seidenberg:

I have witnessed my sons on social media posting images of simulated Gatorade coolers being poured over their heads, sending digital Valentine Day’s cards made by Taco Bell reading “Nacho average Valentine,” and voting on new potato-chip flavors. These are not the passive ads of my childhood. They are clever ways corporations reach children and teenagers, encouraging them to interact with a brand and promote it to their friends.

 

The biggest emphasis appears to be on mobile marketing, where young consumers can be reached at any time. Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity reports: “In 2011, companies spent $1.7 million on mobile media. They are predicted to increase spending on mobile marketing another five-fold, to $8.2 million in the next five years.” Using studies that are now ancient (at least 4 years old), the researchers explain:

  •   Children’s use of mobile devices begins at a very young age, sometimes before they can read. A recent study found that 37% of children 4-5 years old use a smartphone, iPod Touch, or tablet.
  •   Gaming is a popular activity among children using mobile devices. Mobile devices to which children have access have an average of 12 apps. More than half (6.5) of those apps are games.
  •   As children get older, their use of mobile devices grows. In 2010, 75% of teens owned cell phones and 72% of teens sent text messages. Half of those teens sent at least 1,500 texts a month. Forty-nine percent accessed the internet on their phones. In addition, 46% of teens with mobile internet access visited social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the past month.

 

Here are five mobile marketing strategies being used to appeal to children and adolescents:

 

  •  Sugary drink companies have developed youth-oriented mobile apps. Most are creative and engaging. For example, Coca-Cola’s Magic Coke Bottle and Spin the Coke apps allow users to play games using a virtual Coke bottle. Spin the Coke links with Facebook and lets users incorporate friends’ profile photos. Red Bull’s fast-paced game apps promote the companies’ sports sponsorships and are popular among teens. For example, 41% of individuals who downloaded Red Bull’s Racing Challenge app were 12-17 years old.
  •  Fast food companies also use mobile apps to attract youth. Eight of the largest fast food restaurants offered iPhone applications with restaurant locators in 2010. Newer apps from fast food restaurants provide quick response (QR) codes to access promotions or allow customers to pay with their mobile devices.
  •  Food companies have developed apps with content to appeal to children. For example, in Kellogg’s Apple Jacks iPhone game app, “The race to the bowl is on! Play as Apple or CinnaMon as you race through the frozen Ice Kingdom, collecting tasty Apple Jacks cereal pieces for extra race points.” In Wrigley’s Candy Sports app, players hit baseballs at a Skittles logo, kick footballs into a Starburst sign, and shoot free throws in a virtual basketball arena plastered with Life Savers Gummies banners.
  •  Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are now accessible on mobile devices, allowing companies to interact with young consumers wherever they are. Food products are some of the most popular brands on Facebook. Coca-Cola surpassed 50 million Facebook “likes” in September, 2012, more than any other brand. Starbucks leads in Facebook likes among restaurants at just over 32 million. Unhealthy snack food brands also attract a large Facebook audience. For example, Oreo currently has nearly 28 million likes and Skittles has just over 23 million.
  • Fast food and beverage companies, including Snapple, Sonic, Coke, Starbuck’s and Domino’s, use text messages to send promotions and regular brand reminders to individuals who sign up.

 

Like a lot of parents, Seidenberg was unaware of the extent to which her children were being targeted by advertisers:

I believed my kids were safe from the influence of advertisers. We’ve discussed how commercials during Major League Baseball games are simply paid advertisements by companies encouraging consumers to buy their products. But when my boys rattled off a long list of brands with which they regularly engage, I realized a new set of conversations was due. If they are going to employ technology as much as they do, they might as well understand it.

 

Maybe a new set of conversations is due in every household with children.

 

(Google Images)