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Are there obvious brand promotions at your childrens’ school? Does it bother you?


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#1 EBKatie

Posted 02 May 2012 - 04:02 PM

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the cost of education  in Australia has increased by 6% over the past twelve months – more than  double the rate of inflation. That’s on top of the 5.7% increase the  year before and the 5% increase the year before that. In fact the past  ten years have seen education costs rise by an impressive 57.2% - almost  thirty percent more than the official inflation rate. Schools still  seem to be crying poor though, and according to one researcher they may  be increasingly turning to businesses to fill their funding gap.  

“Do  I think that commercial presence in schools is on the rise? Yes I do  think that and I think that the more often it occurs, the more  normalised it becomes,” says Paul Harrison, a senior lecturer with Deakin University’s  Graduate School of Business.  “Really though it’s a strategic decision  on behalf of the profit-making company to get their brands in front of  kids and therefore in front of parents, in a trusted environment.”

Dr  Harrison cites sports drink manufacturers lecturing children about  hydration as an example. “It’s a classic example – my son came home from  school and mentioned that a representative of a particular sports drink  company had been invited to come and talk to the students about  hydration,” he says. “The kids had been given some samples of the  product and that was all good fun. Basically it’s just product promotion  though because surely the PE instructor is capable of telling the kids  about optimal hydration and in fact explaining to the students that  there are a wide range of hydration options beyond buying a sports  drink. Did they really need a sports drink company to come and do that  for them?”

Another well-publicised example is the current furore  over the CEO of dieting juggernaut Jenny Craig being invited to present  at the upcoming ‘Alliance of Girls Schools’ conference.  A recent  petition by social action platform ‘change.org’, protesting about the  invitation, attracted almost two thousand signatures. In the words of  their media release: “Global giant Jenny Craig thrives on women’s body  dissatisfaction and the idea that their bodies are ‘not good enough.’ To  date, there is no independent research to show that the Jenny Craig  approach leads to sustainable outcomes for the majority (>3-5 years).  

Regardless of what Jenny Craig’s CEO is speaking about, having  the Jenny Craig brand adopt a leadership role legitimizes the diet  industry and sends a strong message to educators that weight is what  matters most. One could just as easily have the CEO of a tobacco company  present an “inspiring” talk on their business success.”

Of  course brand promotion at school isn’t an entirely new thing. “I can  remember back when I was at school, Coca Cola used to distribute yo-yos  to school kids,” says clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller.  You had to have your Coca Cola yo-yo and the company also used to hold  yo-yo trick competitions at school and award yo-yo champions. It terms  of brand awareness, it worked.”

Dr Fuller doesn’t see brand  placement in schools as all negative. “Certainly branding within school  can have a strong influence in terms of building up a positive  association and building up ongoing loyalty,” he says. “But it  potentially also offers schools the ability to balance the promotion  with some analytic educations and teach children about marketing  strategies, to help kids to be more discerning in that regard.”

The  key though, according to both Dr Harrison and Dr Fuller, is for schools  to use the product placement as not just a source of funds but also a  learning opportunity. “I don’t believe in bans, but I believe in  critical analysis of things,” says Dr Harrison. “When corporations  persuade schools to favour one brand over another, there is an implicit  understanding that they will promote that brand. Are the children being  given the capacity to critically evaluate the messages being given to  them by the companies?”

Are there many obvious brand  promotions at your childrens’ school? Does it bother you at all?




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