On the way home from school one day Jr. Sense, who's 8 years old, asked about a random car next to us that was plastered with the huge letters of G-E-I-C-O. It really caught his attention.
Here's the conversation we had about it:
Jr Sense: "Mom... Why does that car have Geico written all over it?"
[Grrr... I hate questions like this that you probably know the answer to, but I'll play...]
Me: Because I told them that's what I wanted on that car... so they modified it to suit my wishes.
Jr: No Mom... what's your guess about why they really put it there?
Me: No... what's your guess about why they would do that?
Jr: So we would see it!
Me: Yes. Exactly! It's called marketing. Do you know what that means?"
Jr: Isn't that like those nerf commercials?
[Marketing seems to work like a charm on your malleable 8 year old mind.]
Jr: I hate commercials, why do they do that?
Me: Why do you think they do that?
Jr: Because they want us to spend our money.
[Can you tell this topic of conversation has come up before?]
Me: That's pretty much it! A big part of marketing is about finding ways to keep the names of companies and products engrained in our minds so that when we're ready to buy something, the name one specific company comes to mind before all of the others!
I'll prove it to your Jr... Here's an example of a name that I know you can come up with. Let's pretend that you own a home (he doesn't) and you feel like you need a home security system to keep you safe (no reason to feel that way). Who would you call?
[He actually doesn't hate all commercials... there's an ad for a home security system that comes on the radio in our area and he loves it... the ad is a skit that features 2 crook characters with funny voices. I'm never allowed to change the channel when it comes on.]
Jr: Safe Touch.
Me: That's the one! I knew this would be the one and only name you would come up with because you've been captivated by their marketing!
The marketing and advertising that surrounds me manifests as (mostly) white noise. But to my kids, advertising is bold, loud, captivating, and seemingly important!
Our run-in with the Geico car showed me that even though my kids are highly affected by marketing (aka brainwashing), my son can still recognize that the goal of all marketing is to "make us spend our money."
Little by little, I can see the roots of our parental influence growing deeper and stronger.