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This book was so fantastic, and there’s so much I’d like to say about it, but I don’t have the time!  I do encourage parents and those who are about to become parents to read this book.  I’ve read a lot about children and parenting–discipline, sleep schedules, feeding, health, etc.  But I never considered the importance of reading a marketing book until now.  This book has changed the way I watch TV, stroll through Target and make any type of purchase decision for my children.

A few highlights:

  • “A marketer who establishes ‘educational credit’ can get away with anything.” p. 3
  • “Baby Einstein offers bright, shiny chaos…[the researcher] speculated that babies seemed riveted by these videos because they were sucked into a loop from which they couldn’t escape.  Every time they tried to process what they were seeing, to make sense of an object or action, the scene would shift to something different.” p. 104
  • “Good marketers realize that [young children] see characters and figures right away, and they want kids to recognize the product, and the best way to do that is through characters.” p. 125
  • Regarding books based on licensed characters, according to an author of such books: “These books are not sold on the writing…These books are sold on concept and cover design.  Buyers for a Wal-Mart or a Barnes & Noble don’t say, ‘Let me see how well-written the stories are.’  The writing–and even the pictures–are, unfortunately, not that important.” p. 178
  • Regarding free “curriculum” that Scholastic and Disney give away to thousands of preschools and daycares nationwide:  “…most teachers keep the video of the TV show to pop in the VCR…and even more important, put up the poster featuring the TV-show characters in a place where the children can clearly see it every day.”  “They’re getting exposure to the character and the idea that it’s educational.  That’s really the goal, as far as marketing goes.”  p. 204

Wondering how Baby Einstein changed everything about marketing to parents and children?  Ever considered the crazy success of Thomas & Friends?  How about the “Disney Princess” family?  And then there’s Elmo’s World, Nickelodeon, Leap Frog, Playhouse Disney, Sesame Street…

How is a parent to combat the constant barrage of marketing?  Susan Thomas’ simple conclusion:

To vaccinate against the baby genius virus…may require participating in something many of us are uncomfortable with: doing Nothing…Doing Nothing means that adults and their young children have periods of unstructured time when they can see what just unfolds.  Doing Nothing isn’t mediated by television, classes, computers, or educational toys…Whatever else, doing Nothing isn’t overthinking; it’s just hanging out.  To adults, this may not seem like much, but to babies and toddlers, it is the foundation of life [emphasis mine].  p. 227