Advertising for free?

“Over one million to enter schooling system,” punts a major newspaper poster. January is the time of the year in South Africa when you receive those wads of advertising pamphlets in your letterbox, wrapped up in your “favourite community” newspaper.  Newspapers normally carry stories this time of the year with pictures of first-timers crying their eyes out about this “scary place” called school – those “ag, shame” (cute, endearing) moments which would melt anyone’s heart.

With the euphoria of the  festive season behind them and a year of schooling ahead for “new” and “old” learners, the wads of advertising material (yes, unsolicited), inform parents of the bargains for books, stationery, lunch boxes, pens, calculators, school bags and so forth.

What caught my eye this year – and it’s probably been there every year – is how practically every item, especially the bigger ones like satchels and backpacks bear the logo or a picture of the lead character of some cartoon show on television. As much as I scrutinise the ads, I failed to find a clean (“plain”) item without any logos on them. Perhaps such bland, boring items are only to be found in-store – for those looking from them, that is.

Children have, unfortunately, been ‘televised’ to believe that bags and items with logos and pictures from shows they regularly watch are “cool” and therefore “must-haves”. Parents, on the other hand, being wiser, should however bear in mind that:

  • You are paying for a bag, satchel and lunch boxes with trademark (yes!) logos on them. In fact, you are “paying” (by purchasing) to promote another company’s product.
  • The world of advertising is a multi-billion rand (dollar) industry – they should be paying you to let your son or daughter advertise their company brand on their T-shirts, lunch boxes and backpacks.

Perhaps in an ideal world, parents would have the option of ripping off the logos and branding but that is likely to damage the product. They will also have teary children to deal with, since they do not have “what the other children have”. My bet is that parents will just ignore the fact that their little ones are mobile billboards and bow to “peer pressure” by letting their teens and children wear them.

There are very few items (if any) you can find in this world without some form of branding on them. Personally I take conscious decisions to minimise such advertising and marketing. Since the branding and marketing virus is so pervasive, I make an effort to look for branding associated with a good cause – organisations that can do with a helping hand with regards to marketing and branding. Whenever such a cause is found, such as saving the planet, I’m more than willing to don the t-shirt, wear the satchel and display a sticker on my bicycle.