Just in time for the season of full on consumerism, Amazon’s latest grab for world domination. The ubiquitous retailer recently announced a new buying program for tweens and teens. Amazon is creating new accounts for 13-17 year-olds. Parents will use their credit cards to set up the accounts, which can be accessed directly by the young people so they can skip in-the-moment parental approval and click straight through from online cart to checkout — leaving them even more vulnerable to the targeted advertising enticing them to buy, buy, buy.
Much has been written about the impact of targeted television advertising on young people, especially for kids younger than 8. In the early 2000’s, the American Psychological Association organized a task force to study the impact of the $12 billion television advertising designed especially for kids. Child psychologist Allen D. Kanner said the kids in the study showed increased interest in money and advertised products after constant exposure to the ads. And he warned about the long-term impact saying, “The materialistic shift happening in our society in having an enormous impact and major influence on children’s lives that is highly psychological in nature.”
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not too pure to engage in a little mindless shopping or even occasional retail therapy. But I’m an adult. I’m in charge of my disposable income and I have a lifetime of navigating 24/7 product bombardment.
But, as many studies have confirmed, young people don’t. They are not equipped to handle it. The new program will not only allow teens to shop online, but to stream videos, and take advantage of bonuses linked to the parents' Prime memberships. Parents will be notified about what they buy after the purchase. Amazon’s Michael Carr, Vice President of Amazon Households, told the Washington Post that the new accounts will allow for teen “independence,” “balanced with convenience and trust that parents need.” That’s convenience translated into ka-ching for the Amazon company. But, you gotta give it to the savvy marketers for dreaming up a new way to boost their coffers.
As the kids, themselves might say — this is genius. Because what any retailer craves is brand loyalty, born out of an appreciation for the product or created by habit. And what better way to insure loyalty than to groom your customer from their teenage years into adulthood? According to the organization Packaged Facts, there are approximately 25.6 million middle class American teens who have an average annual income of between $2,000 to $4,000. That’s a lot of unleashed buying power.
There is some irony to note. The announcement about the stand alone kid accounts--it came a little before Giving Tuesday, the day charities solicit donations in the spirit of the giving season. This is the kind of spending I wish more kids indulged in. In a label-obsessed and product-mad society, I’d rather increase the number of young philanthropists than create a new corps of teen consumerists.