Common Wild: Why I fell for the oldest marketing trick in the book
I recently fell victim to the oldest marketing trick in the book. In the birthday party preparation mood, I left the supermarket carrying a brightly coloured bottle of “flamingo flavour” for icing. Flamingo flavour, by the way, is a perfume-y musk, and not poultry as one would expect.
I bought the flamingo flavouring, not because I wanted to flavour icing. After all, icing is made from sugar and butter in a magic ratio known to science as the “bliss point”. You do not need to mess with perfection. No, I actually thought I was buying purple colouring despite the fact I passed Year 1 colour theory and know that red plus blue equals purple and I have those colours at home.
I bought it because their branding and marketing was perfectly targeted at parents, shopping in what parents know as “the birthday zone”. It’s the vulnerable period immediately before your child’s birthday where you lose sight of your normal purchasing values such as sustainability, practicality and cost.
Children’s birthdays are fraught with emotions for parents, another year further away from the tiny, innocent and dependent baby who took its first breath in our arms. Another year closer to the day they leave our homes forever. They force us to acknowledge the growth and maturity that we overlook in the daily grind of parenting. They lead us to look back on photos of an almost unrecognisable baby and toddler, and yearn for a previous version of the child that is sitting right in front of us.
When it comes to marketing to parents, we are sitting ducks. We either shop with our children and the pocket-sized pester power they possess. Or we shop without them, seeing the world through their eyes, seduced by sequins and scents and their latest obsessions and fuelled by a side of parental guilt for the fact we have time away from them.
Companies will continue to use these marketing strategies and I will continue to fall for them. I know I can’t slow down time and can’t control the fact they are growing up right before my eyes.
But if I can create a magical, flamingo-flavoured celebration, worthy of their magnificence, then it does feel like I can freeze them as they are just for this one special day.
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