Studies have shown that children are expressing brand awareness as early as age two and that the average three year old in the US can recognize 100 different brands. Young children cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy so many consumer packaged goods companies target children when they are most susceptible to marketing messages.
In fact, many brands try to build their brand franchises early by targeting young people.
It has been disclosed in court filings that tobacco companies had historically targeted different youth market segments in their marketing campaigns. I am sure tobacco companies supported the chocolate cigarettes that I and my elementary schools friends used to buy at our corner store. National Rifle Association (NRA) is a significant sponsor of Boy Scout Camp rifle and shotgun ranges and sponsors many joint programs in the shooting sports including the BSA/NRA Brownell Youth Ambassador Program. And many businesses sponsor youth sports, including paying for uniforms on which their logos are displayed. The Strong National Museum of Play features a Wegmans Super Kid's Market that teaches children how to shop for groceries at Wegmans. There was a time when most airlines gave out free branded "junior wings" or "kiddie wings" to younger flyers. And Cub Cadet and other vehicle brands sell toy riding tractors and other vehicles.
Product placement in television programming and movies targeted at children is widespread. Further, there is increased product placement in children's fiction books. American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars and The X Factor are some television programs with the most product placements. Brands also frequently appear in The Simpsons, Futurama and South Park, though in some cases, it is as a parody. Many people may remember the Reese's Pieces placement in E.T. Animated films with the most product placements include Foodfight!, Eight Crazy Nights, Free Birds, Curious George, Oliver & Company, The Chipmunk Adventure and Bee Movie.
Marketers are also using YouTube videos, social media celebrity endorsements and mobile alerts to reach the youth markets with brand messaging.
For better or worse, many brands have targeted youth to begin building a lifetime of brand loyalty. Pediatricians, psychologists and others have pushed back on this citing consumerism, materialism, the over commercialization of our society and the focus on brands as an indicator of social status as the negative consequences of these efforts.