On marketing and focus groups in schools…

10/03/2000

I’ve just been reading an article on a new fair trade chocolate bar that has been launched in the UK [Time Out : Shopping Guide]. All was well and good until I came up against this line:

“Hundreds of schools across the country have been involved in helping to design, taste test and name the new milk chocolate bar, Dubble, which at 35p is around half the price of other fair trade brands.”

I was suddenly horrified by this, as it reminded me of something I saw in No Logo – my current political bible:

“In the eyes of the brand managers, every lunchroom and classroom is a focus group waiting to be focused. So getting access to schools means more than just hawking product – it’s a bona fide, bargain-basement cool-hunting opportunity …

Perhaps the most infamous of these experiments occurred in 1998, when Coca-Cola ran a competition asking several schools to come up with a strategy for distributing Coke coupons to students. The school that devised the best promotional strategy would win $500. Greenbriar High School in Evans, Georgia, took the contest extremely seriously, calling an official Coke Day in late March during which all students came to school in Coca-Cola T-shirts, posed for a photograph in a formation spelling Coke, attended lectures given by Coca-Cola executives and learning about all things black and bubbly in their classes. It was a little piece of branding heaven until it came to the principal’s attention that in an act of hideous defiance, one Mike Cameron, a nineteen-year-old senior, had come to school wearing a T-shirt with a Pepsi logo. He was promptly suspended for the offense.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I honestly belief that marketing and focus-groups should be kept well away from schools – whether or not the product that is sold is environmentally friendly.