ADVERTISING course assignment.

Write 1,000 words on children's perception of advertising.

You have to write the assignment based on FOUR PEER REVIEWED articles.
I have attached TWO peer reviewed articles.
This means that you have to find TWO more.
(Please send me the other two peer reviewed articles when you find them.)

The four peer reviewed articles should reflect the 1,000-word article that you will write.
Use proper referencing.

Once again: please write 1,000 words on children's perception of advertising based on four peer reviewed articles with proper APA referencing and citation. 

Please only do it if you have expertise in ADVERTISING.

Feeding children’s desires? Child and
parental perceptions of food promotion to
the ‘‘under 8s’’
Shaun Powell, Stephanie Langlands and Chris Dodd
Purpose – Extant research downplays the influence of children under the age of eight on food-related
decision making and consumption within families. This paper seeks to address this issue.
Design/methodology/approach – Utilising novel techniques to elicit responses, the research
employed focus group and interviews of a sample of children aged between three and eight years and a
sample of their parents.
Findings – The exploratory findings of this study suggest that younger children apply effective if less
sophisticated pestering techniques than older children, and play a significant role in determining family
food consumption. They demonstrate a purposeful and directed pursuit of food brands and products,
along with an awareness of the purpose of promotion and a desire to use a number of persuasive
techniques in their dealings with parents. This contradicts some of the existing thinking that younger
children in the 3-8 year age group have little/less influence on purchasing food.
Originality/value – This research offers a number of contributions in that it presents the views of both
children and parents, and uses novel techniques through visual representations of feelings and
emotions to elicit findings.
Keywords Children (age groups), Food products, Marketing, Promotional methods, Ethics, Toys
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
A child’s first request for a product occurs at about 24 months of age and 75% of the time, this
request occurs in a supermarket (Story and French, 2004, p. 6).
Despite legislative restrictions being imposed upon those food adverts aired during
children’s television programming (Ofcom, 2004) due to rising concerns about obesity and
general health, the targeting of children has not abated. Rather, the food and media sectors
seem to have pursued more creative strategies to tap this lucrative market. This has
included the specific targeting of younger markets (Nairn, 2008; Harris et al., 2009) through
the placement of food products containing poor nutrients and high calories (such as
confectionery, sweetened cereals, fast food, savoury snacks and soft drinks) within schools,
children’s websites, movies, television shows, music videos, video games, sport
sponsorship, text messaging and in-store promotions. There is even evidence of the
specific targeting of pre-teens within promotional activity such as ‘‘kids clubs’’ and via ‘‘free’’
food vouchers (Kearney and Hinde, 2010). This creative development on behalf of the global
food industry is therefore taking food-related messages to wider audiences via more varied
media to viewing audiences that may be less protected and less critical of the information
they receive. In particular, younger children such as the ‘‘under-8s’’ may be particularly
vulnerable to these forms of influence (Stanley, 2007). These children may then act upon this
incomplete understanding to influence food decisions within the family. Much of the research
in this area focuses upon older children (typically the ‘‘over-8’s’’ and teenagers) and tends to
PAGE 96 j YOUNG CONSUMERS j VOL. 12 NO. 2 2011, pp. 96-109, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-3616 DOI 10.1108/17473611111141560
Shaun Powell is a Senior
Lecturer in Marketing at the
School of Management and
Marketing, Faculty of
Commerce, University of
Wollongong, Wollongong,
Stephanie Langlands is a
Teacher at Murrayburn
Primary School, Edinburgh,
UK. Chris Dodd is a
Lecturer in Marketing at the
School of Management and
Languages, Heriot-Watt
University, Edinburgh, UK.
Received: June 2010
Revised December 2010
Accepted February 2011
focus upon traditional advertising media. There would seem to be a clear need to explore the
nature and role of food promotion within much younger audiences such as the ‘‘under-8s’’.
2. Young children as targets
Young consumers are already the recipients of clearly directed messages from food
marketers (Pidd, 2007a, b; Nairn, 2008; Harris et al., 2009). In addition, the use of cartoon
and celebrity characters to advertise food has become an accepted norm within the UK and
other countries (BBC News, 2005). A stroll along any breakfast cereal aisle will demonstrate
the importance that marketers place upon cartoons as a driver of consumer engagement.
Indeed, so powerful is this relationship that marketers seeking to promote ‘‘healthy’’
alternatives to existing offerings may feel obliged to buy into the same practice of
‘‘cartoonification’’, with cartoon characterisation of fruit and vegetables allied to colourful
and individualised packaging. Such techniques are driven by increased sales and it would
be prudent to now consider some of the other effects of such powerful marketing and, in
particular, the impact upon younger consumers. For us, there are several key inter-related
effects of the promotional targeting of children. First, from a socialisation perspective,
children’s understanding of the world is being coloured. Impressionable individuals are
being offered a narrow view of the world that extols the virtues of consumption through
possession and ownership. Second, this process necessarily creates a focus upon wants
more than needs – a situation compounded by the scarcity of personal resources available
to younger children. Third, this latent desire to consume, allied to a lack of financial
resources, ultimately manifests as conflict within families, as children seek to achieve their
wants through the financial resources of their parents/carers. Children aged under eight
years may be less likely to understand the motives and persuasive nature behind campaigns
and will tend to accept advertising claims as being truthful (Stanley, 2007). Bulmer (2001)
suggests that some 5-6-year-olds recognise the contents of advertising as informational and
entertaining but fail to recognise the persuasive strategies behind the communication. She
also notes that by the age of eight, these motives are more apparent to some children, as are
the structural elements of the marketing industry generally. Further, younger children may be
less able than older children to discriminate between advertising and programming material
(for a review, see Young, 2003; and see also Preston, 2004, 2005; Preston and Paterson,
2005). This is perhaps less surprising when one considers the preponderance of celebrity
and cartoon crossover. Linn (2004) considers this concept in a more sinister light, noting that
as soon as programmes/characters become associated with a particular brand, the
programme itself becomes an advert for that brand.
3. Familial conflict and the pestering capabilities of children
‘‘Pester power’’ is a term commonly used to describe ‘‘children’s influence over adult
purchasing through requests and demands for certain products’’ (McDermott et al., 2006,
p. 513). This may result in purchases that were initially undesirable and ultimately regrettable
to the parents (Bhattacharyya and Kohli, 2007). For some, pestering is a consequence of the
major social changes of the post-war years that have restricted the amount of available time
for parents, including delayed parenthood, mothers moving into paid employment, and
more single parent households (see Soni and Upadhyaya, 2007). The increased levels of
disposable income and increased availability of consumables that come with this change
mean that as time pressures become unmanageable, parents may find it easier to grant their
children’s requests for products to compensate for time spent apart (Bhattacharyya and
Kohli, 2007). For Soni and Upadhyaya (2007), this is compounded by a trend for parents to
move from an authoritarian position to one of ‘‘friend’’ to their offspring. For some authors, the
influence of children may be overplayed. While many authors suggest that children have
some influence (see, amongst others, Palan and Wilkes, 1997; Hughner and Maher, 2006),
there is an acceptance that children may overstate their influence and, also, that the nature
and effects of this influence are complex and variable (see Foxman et al., 1989). For
instance, Hughner and Maher (2006) note the role of other children in driving parental
decision making.
Parents’ use of products to manage children’s behaviour may further encourage pestering.
Where food products are used to comfort, reward or punish, children may take this
framework as a basis for persuasion (Petterson et al., 2004). Children may rationalise their
wants to parents in the form of expected benefits (e.g. ‘‘I’ve behaved well so I deserve a
reward’’; ‘‘I will be bullied unless I have that brand’’). Certainly, children are sophisticated
and often shameless in the techniques they use to receive products, from negotiating and
bargaining, to pleading, threatening, crying and constantly asking (Bhattacharyya and
Kohli, 2007). Parker (2001) suggests that for some, this is more akin to psychological
warfare. Nicholls and Cullen (2004) note parents’ perceived higher control and reduced
conflict over food purchasing relative to other products, a view supported by Wilson and
Wood’s (2004) findings that parents feel they have most influence and control over the food
choice of younger children (aged 5-8). Palan and Wilkes’s (1997) research on
adolescent-parent interaction notes the socialisation end-game at work within family
decision making. They suggest that strategies are most effective where they emulate adult
strategies. Further, they note Isler et al.’s (1987) assertion that under-11’s tend to simply ask
for things. Assuming that cognitive techniques come to the fore for older children and that
behavioural and emotional techniques will be favoured by younger children (in line with
social and cognitive development), perhaps parents feel more able to resist emotional
tactics within younger children. By the same token, they may be more willing to encourage
cognitive strategies in older children – an approach that may be variably moderated by
different cultural and societal imperatives.
Certainly, research attests to the variable nature of cognitive and emotional development in
children (see, amongst others, Wellman and Liu, 2004). By exploring the tactics used by
children within younger age groupings, research will add value to the debate regarding the
capabilities of younger children both in their practice of more sophisticated cognitive
strategies and, also, in their ability to articulate these capabilities under questioning. For
instance, research has noted the ability of three-year-olds to discuss the behaviours of
themselves and others in terms of cognition and affect (e.g. Schult and Wellman, 1997).
Further, three-year-olds have been found to be as capable as adults in explaining actions in
psychological terms (Bartsch and Wellman, 1995). Wellman and Liu (2004) note that these
capabilities become available to children sequentially. Namely, from around the age of three
years, children understand what people want (desires) before they understand what people
think (beliefs). They understand that people may not know something (ignorance) before
they understand that people may believe something that is not true (false beliefs).
Importantly for this study, this understanding becomes challenged where a child is faced
with conflicting desires – that is, where others have different desires to their own (Moore
et al., 1995). Our research seeks to demonstrate those tactics utilised by 3-8-year-olds to
reconcile this conflict and suggests that research value may be derived from investigation of
the food centred requests of younger children in particular and their consumption requests
in general.
3.1 Pester power, food and the under-8s
Isler et al. (1987) noted that over half of their sample of 3-11-year-olds’ requests were for food
products. Further, Wilson and Wood (2004) found that parents were more likely to spend
more when shopping with their children. When one considers that pre-school children are
more likely to make requests than older children (Story and French, 2004), the latent
potential of younger children to influence purchasing seems clear. Yet, research continues to
ignore or underplay the role and influence of these children in the process. Where parents
want to provide a balanced diet and their children refuse to eat this healthier food, they may
feel under pressure to provide a less healthy alternative (Taylor et al., 2004). Many younger
children clearly influence food shopping in so much that parents will only buy products that
they know their child will eat. By refusing ‘‘healthy’’ food and accepting ‘‘less healthy’’ food,
the child learns that more preferable alternatives are always available. With parents keen to
see their children eat and grow ‘‘normally’’, it is easy to see how the powerful emotionally
laden demands of younger children are more readily accepted. Bhattacharyya and Kohli
(2007) explored the influence of children of different ages upon household purchases. Their
research considers four discrete age cohorts and notes the types of product requested,
concluding that children aged two-and-a half to eight years had awareness of brands
‘‘limited to toys, chocolates, cookies and brands aimed mainly at them, like Coca-Cola,
Pepsi and McDonalds’ (Bhattacharyya and Kohli, 2007, p.72). This further suggests a strong
role for younger children in family food choice. Clearly, children influence family purchasing
and, further, food is a major focus of their demands. Whilst extant research focuses more
upon older children and teens, younger children are also players in this process. Whilst their
tactics may be less sophisticated, their rudimentary use of emotion within persistent and
enduring demands makes it more difficult for parents to countermand using logic and
rationale. This paper argues, therefore, that current understanding fails to acknowledge the
major role of younger children within food purchasing and offers an empirical insight into the
relationship between food promotion, pester power and children aged 3-8 years. More
specifically our research aims to:
B identify successful methods of food promotion to 3-8-year olds-and explore the bases of
this influence;
B examine parental perceptions of food promotions to this age group; and
B scrutinise the effectiveness of ‘‘pester power’’ when children aged three to eight are
asking for food products.
4. Methodology
A qualitative approach was selected as most appropriate as it ‘can be used to obtain
intricate details about phenomena, such as feelings, thought processes and emotions that
are difficult to extract through more conventional research methods’ (Strauss and Corbin,
1998, p. 11). A qualitative approach also seemed more appropriate when dealing with
children and their parents on an issue that could be sensitive to both parties (Jarratt, 1996).
Our techniques include focus groups and interviews with both children and parents to allow
a broad analysis and deeper understanding of this topic from a child and parental
perspective. It was decided that this research would be conducted with the children and
parents of a nursery based in the UK. An overview of participants for each phase is provided
in Table I, with four children per age group in a focus group in phase 1, followed by two
children selected at random from the focus group for interview in phase 2 (six interviews),
and concluded with follow-up interviews with their parents (only) of the same interviewed
children in phase 3 (five parents; one of the parents had two children in different age groups
interviewed). The focus groups were mixed with both boys and girls, with similar
socio-economic status and the same ethnicity, as well as from the same geographic region.
4.1 Phase 1: Exploring children’s tactics through focus groups
When conducting research with children, it is imperative that the actual age and cognitive
development of each child is considered (Owen, 1997) and to ensure that the children within
the group are all of a similar age, interact with each other on a regular basis and feel
comfortable in their surroundings to enable the participants to feel relaxed to fully engage in
the activity (Morgan et al., 2002). The focus groups were conducted using groups of four
children who were in the same age group and interacted with each other on a regular basis
at nursery/after-school club. The development of a more open and trusting relationship
between researcher and respondents was fostered by the researcher’s employment within
the nursery (with the support of the nursery and parents) for some time prior to the research
taking place. This was to ensure that the children felt comfortable enough to discuss the
Table I Overview of participants for each phase
Participants Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3
3-4 years 4 2 0
5-6 years 4 2 0
7-8 years 4 2 0
Parents 0 6 5
topic in a manner in which valuable information was revealed (Reinaerts et al., 2006). At all
times, the research team placed particular emphasis on the ethical requirements of the work,
with care taken to keep all stakeholders informed and involved. The three focus groups were:
1. children aged three to four years;
2. children aged five to six years; and
3. children aged seven to eight years.
The types of food products on offer to children and their parents were identified via a major
UK supermarket’s website with pictures of selected products provided to the children.
Eighty products were initially selected for presentation to the children. Care was taken to
ensure that the various food-only product categories that would typically be seen in a
supermarket were equitably represented. Thus, the research sought to offer a fair reflection
of what children would see when shopping with their parents. The items from within each
product category were chosen at random. These visual aids, in the form of product pictures,
were provided due to the age and stage of the children involved, with the intention of
encouraging the children to openly talk about the issue. A large piece of paper was also
provided on the table with the heading ‘‘When I go food shopping with mummy I ask for . . . ’’.
The children were asked to place the products that they would ask for on the paper and to
discuss the reasons why they would ask for it. The children were recorded during the
process and a photograph of the final result was taken. The second stage of the focus group
was to analyse the tactics that the children used to convince their parents to buy them
particular products. A series of flash cards containing expressions and the meaning in
words of different emotional requests was given to each child to help articulate their views on
certain products. Specifically, these emoticons expressed simple begging (‘‘. . .
please . . . ’’), begging with overt emotion (‘‘. . . please (with crying)’’), aggressive
demanding (‘‘I want it now’’), conditional withholding of good behaviour (‘‘I won’t . . .
unless’’), emotional rationalisation (‘‘. . . because you love me’’), and rationale linked to past
behaviour (‘‘I’ve been really good’’). Each of these visual emotions were explained to the
children and checks made when they selected a card that they understood the expression
selected and that it was the one they had meant to provide.
Six products were subsequently chosen from the children’s wider selection of preferred
requests. Audio recordings of the children’s reflections upon their attempts to persuade their
parents to buy these products were taken for each focus group. The products selected per
focus group were as follows:
B 3-4 year olds: Jelly Babies, Kinder Egg, Chocolate Lolly, Fruit Shoots, Frubes and Rice
B 5-6 year olds: Lunchables, Spider Man Chocolate Lolly, Ribena, Juicy Drops, Haribo and
Cheese Strings; and
B 7-8 year olds: Kinder Egg, Spider Man Chocolate Lolly, Coco Pops, Push Pops, Haribo
and Cheese Strings.
Each child was asked to hold up the relevant flash card after the count of three to minimise
the risk of copying their neighbour (Owen, 1997). The focus group lasted 15 minutes to
ensure that the children remained interested and concentrated on the task (Reinaerts et al.,
2006). The different tasks within the session kept the children focused and intrigued so that
valuable information could be gained (Owen, 1997).
Information from the three focus groups was transcribed to allow the content to be
scrutinised. Key phrases and words were analysed in terms of frequency and nature to allow
comparisons to be made between the different age groups (Krippendorff, 2004). The
content analysis considered the type of products requested and the reasons for this choice,
to illustrate the main motives for selection. The results from each focus group were then
compared to highlight the differences and similarities of food promotions to different age
groups. The photograph of the final picture created by each focus group was also compared
to highlight differences between the age groups and any inter-related themes. Finally, the
results from the flash cards were compared and conclusions drawn to illustrate any
similarities or differences with the techniques used for the different age groups.
4.1.1 Focus group 1 (3-4 years old). Focus group 1 constituted of four 3-4-year-olds, all of
whom shop for food with their parents on a regular basis. The children were given a large
selection of products to reflect the amount of products that would be targeting them in a
supermarket. Out of the selection available, only 21 products were selected by this group,
11 of those being sweets/chocolate (52 per cent), demonstrating the desire for these
products within this age group. The children in this group were not fazed by this task and
clearly ask for products when supermarket shopping, reinforcing the argument that children
are requesting products from very young ages (Kanner, 2006), and that this is particularly
true in relation to food products (Nicholls and Cullen, 2004).
4.1.2 Focus group 2 (5-6 years old). Focus group 2 was composed of four 5-6-year-olds, all
of whom regularly shop for food with their parents. All of the children were keen to take part in
the activity, and immediately started talking about which products they like. The children in
this group were more tempted by sweets and chocolates, with 72.4 per cent (21 out of 29) of
requests being made for these products. All the products that this group would ask for were
mainly based on sweets, chocolates and other branded goods specifically aimed at
4.1.3 Focus group 3 (7-8 years old). The four members of focus group 3 were all aged 7–8
years and regularly help their parents with food shopping. In total, 38 products were
selected from the assortment available, of which 24 were sweets or chocolate (63 per cent),
showing that this was a popular range with this age group. However, a large amount of fruit,
crisps and savoury snacks like cheese were also selected. This suggests that as children
get older, their understanding of what is healthy develops and they become aware of what
they like in relation to the promotional campaigns.
4.2 Phase 2: Interviews with children
Individual interviews were conducted with six children (two children selected from each of
the three focus groups) to obtain information on the type of food products that attract their
attention. Each child was asked a series of questions in relation to their food choice. The
‘‘draw and write’’ technique was considered particularly useful when facilitating
contributions from the children. This method allowed the children to express their views
and feelings visually and allowed easier clarification of their ideas (Brackett-Milburn and
McKie, 1999). The children were given a template of a lunch box. They were then asked to
draw what they would like for lunch, to discuss reasons why they know about these products
and, also, whether their parents buy the products in question. A structured interview
approach was taken so that all children were answering identical questions, allowing
comparisons to be made between the different age groups (Saunders et al., 2007). This
allowed the children to develop and express their ideas in a manner that was relevant to the
study (Wilson and Wood, 2004). The drawing and the answers that were completed by the
child were then shown to their parents at a later time and the parents were asked their
opinion on their child’s work as discussed below. The general themes of each child interview
were reviewed and analysed to provide the areas of key interest to investigate further
(Krippendorff, 2004). The information received from the children was then used in
conjunction with the data collected in the focus group to highlight the main reasons why
children aged three to eight are attracted to particular products. The results were then used
to develop the questions for the final stage of in-depth interviews with parents and, further, to
highlight any areas that had not already been identified in the preceding literature search.
4.3 Phase 3: In-depth interviews with parents
The remaining five interviews aimed to investigate how parents feel towards the food
industry, particularly with regard to food promotions and children’s pestering. The
face-to-face interviews with parents consisted of five short questions concerning the content
of their child’s lunch box (evidenced from the child interviews concerning promotions noted
above); balanced diets, and also children’s pestering. Interviews took place in the parents’
homes, typically in the evening. The issue of children’s pestering is potentially sensitive for
many parents as they may not wish to admit, for instance, that their child has a strong
influence over purchasing decisions. To combat this issue, pestering is presumed to take
place and the question of how it takes place is the focus (Lee, 1993). One main issue that
needs to be considered when discussing sensitive topics is that many people feel
uncomfortable revealing the truth and give ‘‘socially desirable’’ answers that do not
accurately reflect what happens or how they feel (Frey and Oishi, 1995). This was overcome
by reassuring parents that anonymity will be maintained throughout the process. The
interviews were transcribed and key themes identified. This was followed by thematic
analysis, which was used ‘‘as a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns
within data’’ (Braun and Clarke, 2006, p. 79).
5. Findings and discussion
5.1 Cartoon characters
5.1.1 3-4-year-olds. Many of the children in this age group were attracted to the chocolate
lollies that had a selection of cartoon characters on them, including Thomas the Tank Engine,
Winnie the Pooh and Spider Man, all of which are programmes aimed at this age group. One
child stated:
I’d ask for Thomas the Tank Engine lollies, he’s my favourite, is there a Gordon and Percy one too?
While children may be attracted to any chocolate, even non-branded lollies, the children
were clearly influenced by this form of promotion as it linked the programmes that they watch
to the type of food that they usually ask for (e.g. chocolate). The child noted above used the
Thomas the Tank Engine branding to access other information he possessed regarding that
brand and, hence, became more psychologically involved with that particular product.
Previous research has identified cartoon characters as an irresponsible way of targeting
children as these consumers may associate the programme with the product, resulting in
constant reminders of the product when innocently watching the programme (Linn, 2004).
Another common theme throughout this focus group was the fact that the children saw many
of these products as treats for good behaviour or achievement of a goal. One child
commented on the chocolate lollies, saying:
Mummy bought me the Thomas the Tank Engine one because I was good at my swimming.
This association between particular products and good behaviour is clearly evident at
younger ages, with a number of children noting their similar experience and, hence,
illustrating the link between desired products and behaviour. The main products asked for
by this focus group are attractive because of the cartoon characters and the free toys, but
the children are aware of the fact that they mainly receive these products when they have
been good or have achieved something.
5.1.2 5-6-year-olds. One of the first products to be discussed was an Easter egg that had a
cartoon character on its packaging. The issue of cartoon characters became a prominent
theme throughout the focus group with nine different characters being mentioned. Children
of this age were very aware of the different characters and picked up on this aspect of
promotions more than the children in Focus group 1. The children in this age group tend to
watch more television and films and, thus, may be more exposed to and subsequently aware
of different cartoon characters. Also, due to the age and stage of the children, this group
were more aware of a wider variety of characters and so asked for the products with these
characters on the packaging, as indicated by the following child statements:
I ask for lots of Easter eggs, there are lots in the shops at the moment. I want one with The
Incredibles on it, they’re my favourite.
My favourite is the Spider Man one, I have it on DVD.
This age group was also attracted by the free toys in Kinder Eggs but took this a stage further
by linking the toy to a cartoon character:
I would like a Kinder Egg . . . they have toys in them. I am collecting the Shrek toys just now, I only
need Princess Fiona.
5.1.3 7-8-year-olds. This group did not seem to be as influenced by the cartoon characters
that were on the packaging. Rather, they enjoyed products that provided entertainment,
such as Kinder Eggs and Pez sweetie dispensers, where the product design
encourages/requires deliberate and considered interaction with the child:
I would ask for the sweetie holder with Shrek too, I like holding the sweeties in it. You lift the head
and then one pops out, it’s really cool.
5.2 Toys
5.2.1 3-4-year-olds. The group agreed that they all like Kinder Eggs because of the toys
inside, demonstrating the success of this promotional tool on children aged 3-4. However,
Kinder Egg was the only food product that used this technique out of the chosen products,
suggesting that it is only this brand that has successfully promoted the free toy to this age
group. Other food manufactures, like Kellogg’s, frequently use this technique when
promoting their breakfast cereals, but this has not been identified by this group. This also
suggests that the core product of Kinder Egg, i.e. the chocolate, is also an attractive quality
to this group.
5.2.2 5-6-year-olds. The children in this group were attracted to the Kinder Egg because of
the toy and this attraction was heightened by the knowledge that a particular character
would be inside. A new issue was highlighted for this group, however, through their
predilection for collections of toys. This is another promotional tool that is commonly used to
lure children to certain food products as it encourages children to request products until the
collection is complete. Indeed, Linn (2004) considered ‘‘collector schemes’’ to be a
facilitator of pestering. The desire to complete the collection may ultimately move the
definition of the core offering of products – for example, away from chocolate and on to toys,
with the chocolate consumed as a by-product. This focus group also discussed the fact that
they see Kinder Eggs and Shrek within their programmes and, also, on the display boxes in
shops. They claim, therefore, to be well aware of what the toy is going to be like inside the
packaging. The children were aware of how they know about certain products and why they
are attracted to them, the main reasons being the chance to obtain ‘‘free’’ toys and their
affiliation with those cartoon characters that endorse the products.
5.2.3 7-8-year-olds. The children in this age group were attracted to products that had free
toys, like the Kinder Eggs, and products that encouraged interaction, like the Pez sweetie
dispenser. All of the children agreed they would like this product because it involves the child
and is a completely different way of consuming sweeties. This interaction with products is
becoming a key selling point for many food companies, as children want to be entertained
by the food that they are consuming. The children in this age group were more aware of what
was seen to be ‘‘cool’’, and this perceived image of the product influenced whether they
would ask for it. For example, products like Jelly Babies were seen as ‘‘babyish’’, so this age
group would ask for a product with a ‘‘cooler’’ or ‘‘grown up’’ image (Dammler, 2002). All of
the children knew the limits to which they could push their parents when demanding food
products and saw many of the products as rewards for good behaviour:
I would ask my mum for a Push Pop, they are really cool . . . but I would have to be really good for
mum to buy me one, or I would buy it with my own money.
All of the children in this group were influenced by the perceived image of a product and by
how this would reflect on their personal image within their peer groups.
5.3 Methods of persuasion
5.3.1 3-4-year-olds. The children were also asked which methods they use to persuade their
parents to purchase the demanded products, using the series of flash cards to convey their
emotions. The results can be seen in Figure 1 and illustrate that the main techniques used by
children aged three to four years old are ‘‘crying’’, ‘‘I WANT IT NOW’’ and ‘‘I’ve been really
good’’. This suggests that children of this age use basic pester power techniques when
trying to get the food products that they want. This being said, prior studies have stated that
children of this age do not posses the capabilities to pester their parents (Petterson et al.,
2004). Our findings, however, suggest that they are indeed aware of how to persuade their
parents to buy the products they want, even though they may be using basic behavioural
techniques like crying and temper tantrums.
5.3.2 5-6-year-olds. The children were also asked to discuss how they managed to convince
their parents to buy them the food products that they want when they are food shopping. The
six flash cards containing the different emotions were used to discuss six products; the
results can be seen in Figure 1, and illustrate that children aged between five and six tend to
use a variety of techniques when pestering their parents for particular food products.
However, showing anger and telling parents that they have been good are popular methods
used by this age group. The range of pestering techniques used also highlights that this
group are aware of a wider variety of ways to get what they want and are willing to attempt a
number of approaches to achieve the desired outcome.
5.3.3 7-8-year-olds. As with the other focus groups, Focus group 3 was asked about how
they manage to convince their parents to buy them the food products that they ask for. The
children were all given the six flash cards which contained the different emotions and asked
how they would get their parents to buy certain products. The results presented in Figure 1
clearly show that children aged seven to eight have developed an understanding of the
methods that work when asking for a product that the parent would not usually buy and,
moreover, tend to stick to these. This age group does not tend to cry or get angry over a food
product that they want but will instead find a reason why they deserve the product and justify
a purchase to their parents.
In summary, there are distinct differences between these age groups in relation to the
promotional techniques that attract their attention, suggesting that the food promotions are
successful when targeting children aged three to eight years old:
B children aged 3-4 years are attracted by cartoon characters and free toys;
B children aged 5-6 years are attracted by a wider range of cartoons and free toys that are
part of running collections; and
B children aged 7-8 years are attracted by products that entertain or that are seen as ‘‘cool’’
by their peers.
Evidently there are distinct differences between promotional tools in terms of effectiveness
across these different younger age groups and marketers need to consider this when
promoting their products at children aged three to eight years.
The methods that the children use to persuade their parents to buy the demanded products
differ greatly between the ages, and Figure 1 illustrates this. The main differences are
between the youngest and oldest groups, as the 3-4 year olds clearly lack the cognitive
capability to negotiate with their parents and instead demand the product through
behavioural and emotional means, such as temper tantrums. The 7-8 year olds, on the other
hand, use their more developed powers of persuasion to rationalise their parents’ choices –
Figure 1 The pestering methods used by children aged three to eight to get desired food
for instance, by explaining that they have been good and deserve the product. The literature
clearly states that children under the age of eight years old do not possess the tools to
convince their parents to buy the products that they want (Petterson et al., 2004) and if they
do, then it is usually for toys and TV time (Bhattacharyya and Kohli, 2007), not for food
products. Our research indicates, however, that not only are children as young as three able
to successfully pester their parents but, also, that eight-year-olds are aware of and readily
implement those techniques that they find work best when pestering their parents for a food
product. For example, each parent was asked: ‘‘In what ways does your child convince you
to buy certain products?’’:
He says ‘‘I’ve been a good boy’’ and usually goes on and on. If I really disagree then I say a firm
no (Parent interview 2 for boy aged four).
Pleading and hounding. He doesn’t do it very often though. Occasionally he asks for things that
have cartoons on them but he knows that ‘‘no’’ means no! (Parent interview 3 for boy aged five).
He finds something that he has done well in that day and uses that to negotiate with me (Parent
interview 4 for boy aged 6).
When the parents were expressly asked what areas of household buying their children have
an influence over, four out of five said that food was a major issue that the children had an
impact on, supporting Nicholls and Cullen’s (2004) argument that children have more of an
influence over food than toys or clothes. The children were aware that they receive food
products for good behaviour or achievement of a goal. The issue of seeing products in the
shops, clearly at their level, was an issue that children deal with on a regular basis, as each
child recalled seeing the products that they want in this environment. The issue of seeing
products at school was also prominent, suggesting that as children get older they are
increasingly influenced by their social group. Mentioned by every parent was the issue of
peer pressure, particularly regarding their children’s possession of the latest products. This
issue occurred 15 times within the five interviews and suggested families’ acute awareness
of the need for children to fit in at school. Comments from different parents highlighted this
My six-year-old is very keen to keep up with her peers and that process of keeping up depends
more and more on having the right products, so at the moment, she would dearly love to have a
High School Musical video.
The ‘‘everybody’s got it appeal’’, they appeal to the fact that if they do this, then they will be more
accepted within their peer group.
This would seem to offer further support to the notion of other children’s indirect influence
upon parents’ decisions (Hughner and Mahner, 2006).
When discussing the reasons why food promotions are successful when targeting their
children, a number of issues became evident with cartoon characters, toys and TV adverts
as dominant themes. Cartoons were mentioned nine times by three different parents,
illustrating the fact that this is a useful technique when targeting children under eight years
old. One parent commented on the wide use of cartoons in a variety of products that are not
necessarily aimed at children:
There is far too much use of cartoons in food and non-food products, all companies try to use
cartoons, like in bread and insurance adverts, and you definitely notice it. They are really focusing
on youngsters nowadays.
It was noticeable that the parents had a fairly negative attitude to the food industry. This
manifested as a perception of a manipulative and exploitative industry, particularly with
regard to the manner in which they target their children – especially those under eight – with
parents stating:
I think that many parents find it hard enough to give children a varied and nutritional diet but the
food industry constantly provides a battle for parents to do so.
I think it makes me very conscious all the time of controlling the kinds of products that they have
access to and that becomes so much harder as they get older as in my mind so many of the
products are sexualised and exploitative of a particular style and sexual identity which I am not
very approving of. I am more cautious than what I would like to be and the kind of products that
my kids are exposed too are like the ones I will buy them.
Bhattacharyya and Kohli (2007) identified that children aged 11 to 14.5 years are able to
influence the household purchases in terms of electrical goods, family holidays, etc., but the
increased usage of cartoons in many adverts might suggest that marketers believe that
younger children are becoming more involved in these types of decisions. Other techniques
highlighted included the use of TV adverts as a means of promoting to children – this
received six mentions. Conversely, most of the parents stated, however, that their children do
not watch commercialised television and so are not exposed to the adverts. Further, with the
introduction of the UK food advertising ban in January 2008, many food adverts have been
removed. This may suggest that, for some children at least, the range of marketing contacts
is away from mainstream television advertising and towards alternative media and/or
packaging. One parent said:
They never ask me for something that’s been on the television, so either those adverts are not
seen by them or it doesn’t affect them.
When asked about pester power, all of the parents could relate to this issue, suggesting that
pester power frequently occurs with children under the age of eight years. One of the
parents noted:
He identifies something as soon as we walk into the supermarket and then would basically follow
me around the aisles for ten minutes, driving me insane, until he is either given a row or he gets his
own way.
This admission clearly contradicts earlier research from Ogba and Johnson (2010), whose
sample of parents steadfastly denied that they succumbed to children’s pressure. Of course,
whilst children’s influence may well be overstated in research (often by the children
themselves) (see Foxman et al., 1989), it may also be the case that parental control is also
overstated by virtue of similar desires within respondent samples. The present research
concurs with the notion of a complex and varied environment of interpersonal influence
noted earlier in the paper. What is clear from this study, however, is that this process of
influence seems to be rooted much earlier in the socialisation of children than has been
acknowledged to date.
6. Limitations
We primarily used visual scales over verbal scales in our research methodology. We were
aware that children of these age groups may not perhaps be consistently proficient at
reading and comprehension of words on flash cards. We took time therefore to ensure that
the children understood the meaning of each card from outset and, as a further control,
confirmed their choice of card and confirmed their understanding of its meaning when each
card was presented.We also acknowledge, however, that these visual aids could have been
subject to further testing and validation. Our research did not observe children actually
shopping with their parents in real-time, real-world environments. Rather, we relied upon
reflections of this process. It would be interesting and beneficial for future research to
observe children while shopping with their parents, to confirm that children do ask for these
items when shopping and to further validate and explore the approaches taken.
7. Conclusion and future research
Our findings indicate that there are distinct differences between the age groups in relation
the promotional techniques that attract their attention, suggesting that the food promotions
are successful when targeting children aged three to eight years old.
Our research indicates that not only are children as young as three able to successfully
pester their parents, but that children of eight years old are able to differentiate between
more or less effective techniques when pestering their parent for a food product that may not
normally be purchased. Our research therefore appears to contradict some of the existing
research which states that children under the age of eight tend not to ask for food products
but instead ask for toys, gizmos and TV time.
At a fundamental level, our research adds to the debate regarding the capabilities of
younger children both in their practice of more sophisticated cognitive strategies and, also,
in their ability to articulate these capabilities under questioning. Importantly for this study, a
child’s understanding is known to become challenged where the child is faced with
conflicting desires – that is, where others have different desires to their own (Moore et al.,
1995). Our study demonstrates clear tactics utilised by 3-4-year-olds to reconcile this
conflict and suggests that research value may be derived from further investigation of the
food centred requests of younger children in particular and their consumption requests in
general. Perhaps more importantly, our exploratory findings would underpin an argument
that much greater debate should be occurring, with regard to the ethics and practice of food
promotion to the under-8’s in the UK. Future research would also, we believe, benefit from an
extension of the current methodology. Greater involvement of parents and carers within this
process will support a richer and more rigorous understanding. Further, by contextualising
the impact of such behaviour, through personal accounts from a variety of samples, research
may be able to establish the moderating effect of a number of core variables. For instance,
such requests for food and food brands may be moderated across a number of core
variables from socio-economic status and geo-demographics, to intelligence and gender.
Further research could also be conducted into the newer forms of promotions used to target
children (e.g. internet sites and text messages) and to explore the effectiveness of these
methods when targeting the younger, under-8s market. Finally, international studies looking
at similar age groups and backgrounds from differing countries and cultures would help to
provide a global understanding of children’s pestering and could offer particular insights to
the socialisation effects underpinning the relationships between these younger consumers,
their parents and food marketing.
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About the authors
Shaun Powell is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Associate Head of School in
Management and Marketing at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
Prior to this he worked in various universities in the UK and as a Visiting Lecturer in other
parts of Europe, following a number of years in industry. His teaching and research are
focused on corporate marketing, corporate branding and corporate social responsibility
(CSR). He is a member of various journal editorial boards and an experienced journal editor,
and has published in a number of international journals, books and conference proceedings.
Shaun Powell is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:
Stephanie Langlands is a Teacher at Murrayburn Primary School in Edinburgh and was a
finalist for Probationary Teacher of the Year in the Scottish Education Awards 2010.
Chris Dodd is a Consumer Psychologist with a particular interest in the social, psychological
and experiential aspects of consumption. His academic background within social and
developmental psychology allows his teaching and research to be informed by a focus on
people and their relationships with social and physical environments. He is a Chartered
Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society.
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Tween girls’ perception of gender roles and
gender identities: a qualitative study
Kara Chan, Birgitte Tufte, Gianna Cappello and Russell B. Williams
Purpose – The present study aims to examine girls’ perception of gender roles and gender identities in
Hong Kong.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 16 girls aged 10 to 12 were asked to take pictures from the
media that could illustrate ‘‘what girls or women should or should not be; and what girls or women should
or should not do’’. Qualitative interviews were conducted.
Findings – Analysis of interviews and images captured found that tween girls’ perceived gender roles
for females were based on a mixture of traditional and contemporary role models. Girls in Hong Kong
demonstrated conservatism in sexuality. Sexy outlook and pre-marital sexual relations were considered
inappropriate. Tween girls showed concern about global as well as domestic social agendas. They used
a variety of media and showed interest in contents primarily for adults.
Research limitations/implications – The study was based on a convenience sample. The
interviewees came from middle to lower income families, limiting the validity for generalization.
Further quantitative study is needed to establish benchmarks.
Practical implications – This study will help in understanding the kinds of media images that attract the
attention of female tweens and what those images mean to them. The study can serve as a guideline for
marketing communication aimed at this target group, particularly for skincare, beauty, and cosmetic
Originality/value – The first novel idea that is being used in this research is the combination of visual
method and the application of qualitative methodology to the study of media effects. The second novel
idea is the use of interviewees as data-collectors. The methodology enables contextually relevant
questions and to understand the meaning of the images captured.
Keywords Mass media, Influence, Socialization, Hong Kong, Girls, Sex and gender issues
Paper type Research paper
Hong Kong has a media saturated environment. Television is an obvious source of
commercial, social and entertainment messages. In Hong Kong televised messages can be
found at home, in various forms of public transportation, inside lifts and lift lobbies, in large
public areas such as shopping centers, and on the Internet. Newspapers and magazines
are traditional sources of editorial and advertising content and Hong Kong is a city with a rich
diversity of print-based media outlets. Posters and other forms of discrete printed
advertisements are nearly ubiquitous in Hong Kong from billboards along side the road to
single sheets in train stations and from inside train cars to the sides of double-deck buses.
Finally, the internet has become a staple of life and provides a wealth of text and image
driven content from traditionally formulated and produced commercial messages to
user-generated content of every imaginable type and configuration.
People in Hong Kong are exposed to images, ideas and stereotypes and the sources go well
beyond the perceived singular dominance of television that is found in media effects and
content analysis research. Young people, and particularly young women, adolescent girls
PAGE 66 j YOUNG CONSUMERS j VOL. 12 NO. 1 2011, pp. 66-81, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-3616 DOI 10.1108/17473611111114795
Kara Chan is a Professor in
the Department of
Communication Studies,
Hong Kong Baptist
University, Kowloon Tong,
Hong Kong. Birgitte Tufte is
a Professor in the
Department of Marketing,
Copenhagen Business
School, Frederiksberg,
Denmark. Gianna Cappello
is an Assistant Professor in
the Social Sciences
Department, University of
Palermo, Edificio, Italy.
Russell B. Williams is an
Assistant Professor in the
Department of
Communication Studies,
Hong Kong Baptist
University, Kowloon Tong,
Hong Kong.
This study was fully supported
by the Centre for Media and
Communication Research of
Hong Kong Baptist University.
Received: February 2010
Revised: August 2010
Accepted: November 2010
and tween girls (10-12 years olds who are not quite teens but have different interests than
younger children), are exposed to messages that tell them how they should act, how they
should look, who they should idolize and the limits of their aspirations. Primary among these
messages are advertising, and content analysis research tells us that advertising is filled
with gender-based stereotypes and role definitions that may or may not be consistent with
social or cultural norms and the development of the woman or girl according to her potential
(Moon and Chan, 2002). Media learning research, including Bandura’s (1986) social
learning theory and Gerbner et al.’ (1994) cultivation theory, tell us that these messages have
an effect on the individual’s sense of self and behavior. What is missing is an understanding
of the process from the message to cognition and behavior through the individual’s
exposure, attention and perception. This is particularly true in the multi-channel media
environment that currently exists globally and is expressed fully in Hong Kong.
Chan and McNeal (2002), and Williams and Williams (2000) discovered a limited literature to
build a program of research focused on the consumption, attention and cognition of the
media messages. Consumers and advertisers are growing-up in a visual age, and are
accustomed to using the computer as a portal into the worlds of information, entertainment,
buying, selling, working, and communicating. Images place an important role in each of
these spheres of activity (Belk and Kozinets, 2005). The current study introduces an
innovative visual method by asking interviewees to collect images and discuss their
interpretation of these images. Using a qualitative approach, the identifies how processes
such as social learning occur in the real world and discover ways to more effectively study
these processes on a large scale. Researchers such as Bandura (1986) have shown that
attention and processing are important parts of the theoretical process of social learning.
The current study will examine these processes in context in order to more fully develop and
explicate the theory in realm terms that are globally relevant.
Literature review
The tween market segment
Tweens is a sub-teen consumer segment (Lindstrom and Seybold, 2003; Siegel et al., 2004).
The segment is defined by age and the concept is based on the idea that these children are
‘‘in-be-tween’’ childhood and teen-hood (Cook and Kaiser, 2004; Siegel et al., 2004). Most
commonly tweens are defined as 8-12-year-olds (Siegel et al., 2004). In the present article,
we focus on the 10-12-year-olds, which we consider to be the older part of the tween
segment. This phase of life is of particular interest because of the salience of sexuality during
this phase, not just for the young