Monday, June 27, 2005

Born to Shop

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Branded from birth
Marketers use cartoon characters and familiar scents to build brand loyalty from Day One

Vanilla-scented diapers? Teddy bears that smell good enough to eat? Baby clothes infused with fragrance?

Expect to see, er, smell, them soon at your favorite retailer. Or maybe it will be so subtle that you don't notice. Marketers are betting your baby will, though.

The corporate world is always looking for the next big market, and right now babies are it.

With marketing research concluding that young children are up to 350 percent more responsive to the five senses than adults, and especially to smell, marketers are hoping to capture future consumers by putting signature smells in ordinary baby products that will later evoke positive memories. For a toy manufacturer, for instance, a scent on a stuffed animal could translate to a 7-year-old's preference for that brand of toys just because the toy has the scent.

"You won't be able to argue with your brain," says branding specialist Martin Lindstrom of Norway, who advises Fortune 500 companies.

Or with your child. Marketers are counting on that.

That marketers want our children is not new. That they are after even our babies and toddlers is an increasing challenge for parents and a concern to child-development specialists.

Try to find a disposable diaper, even for a newborn, that doesn't have a media character on it, from Barney and Blues Clues (Luvs), to Mickey Mouse, Finding Nemo (Huggies) or Sesame Street (Pampers). The characters aren't just on the strip along the top of the diaper, they are front and center, big and bold. Right there where a seated 6-month-old's drool dribbles.

That's no coincidence.

Long before "drool factor" became a hip way to refer to an item advertisers hoped consumers would covet, it had a more literal meaning. Ever notice how a 5- or 6-month-old sometimes watches to see where his drool lands? Discovering that was an "aha!" moment for former Texas A&M marketing professor James McNeal. He reasoned that if the drool dripped to a diaper or a bib imprinted with an image of a character that's linked to a brand, and if the baby sees the logo repeatedly...

Voila! Brand recognition in the crib! With cradle-to-grave brand loyalty worth an estimated $100,000 per consumer, babies are "the future market for ALL goods and services," e-mails McNeal from China, where he's researching youth consumerism. He is author of "Kids as Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children" (Free Press).

McNeal came up with the drool factor in 1993, but the industry was slower on the uptake than he expected. Only recently, he e-mails, "has it finally dipped down to 1-year-olds."

If you're wondering, "What's the big deal? We're just talking babies, for heaven's sake," McNeal will tell you: "Consumer behavior patterns begin officially at 16 weeks of age."

Child-development specialists might not pinpoint it so exactly, but few would argue the point. Research shows that the part of the brain responsible for cognitive learning comes on line gradually, over several years, but the right brain, responsible for emotions and relationships, is up and running from birth.

Here's how it can work to a marketer's advantage: The more an image is repeated on diapers, toys, clothes and food, the more familiar it becomes. What's familiar conveys a sense of comfort and security. That leads to an emotional attachment.

"Deep, subconscious connections are made," says psychologist Susan Linn of Judge Baker's Children Center, author of "Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood" (The New Press).

Babies and toddlers are most vulnerable. Cognitively unable to filter, they also take in more than we realize. What's most visually dramatic tends to be what children notice first, says Dan S. Acuff, a marketing insider turned critic. But "the whole gestalt also imprints. If a brand is there, it's recorded at some level." He is co-author of "Kidnapped: How Irresponsible Marketers are Stealing the Minds of Your Children" (Dearborn Books), just out this month.

Marketers first recognized the value of visual repetition. Now they're on to sound and smell. A pacifier with a music chip? "Don't laugh," says Lindstrom. Smell is even more powerful "because it goes straight to the emotional register." Look for scented diapers on U.S. shelves within six months, he says. Expect a smell of vanilla to infuse your nursery not long thereafter.

Why vanilla? "Because the milk you are breast-feeding with has a twist of natural vanilla fragrance," says Lindstrom, who is author of "BRAND sense" (Free Press).

Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor doesn't tell parents to ban all branded items from the crib; as in so many arenas of parenting, moderation is key, she says. But extensive branding in a baby's life "socializes him into a world of corporate values. A toddler grows up thinking McDonald's is good because it gives her things she likes. But McDonald's isn't healthy food, it doesn't pay decent wages," says Schor, author of "Born to Buy" (Scribner). "By branding kids younger and younger, corporations count on creating the next generation to be more friendly to them. To the extent we are branding babies, we are bringing them up in a world that makes it harder for them to be critical of what they buy."

To be sure, you can find unbranded diapers, you can find unbranded anything. But it takes more effort and, often, more money.

Meanwhile, parents aren't as powerless as we may think:

• Resist screens of all kinds. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than 2, marketers have become more resourceful. The latest? Verizon offers "mobi-toons" on your cell: Pass the cellphone to your crying baby or toddler while you're driving and, for $15 a month, you have unlimited access to famililar, calming "Sesame Street" characters. There's a hidden cost, though. Linn cautions that children who learn to turn to a screen for comfort sooner or later are exposed to logos, branding, and commercials that further suck them into a materialistic culture.

• Buy generic. A baby will find as much fascination in an unbranded crib mirror as one with Elmo on the frame, as much comfort in any cuddly stuffed animal as the plush version of a beloved TV character. When a toy is generic and open-ended rather than linked to a character, there's more opportunity for creativity, which leads to more learning. What's more, Linn says character toys lead to consumerism because they become boring, encouraging a child to want the next toy.

• Acknowledge, don't purchase. You're at the grocery store and your 16-month-old gets excited as you pass a food item with her favorite character on it. If you say "No!" and try to move on, you're into a power struggle that marketers count on parents losing. Instead, "Diffuse the moment by thinking of this as a request for acknowledgment, not a demand for purchase. It's the fact of recognition that makes it pleasurable to them," says early childhood educator Ruth Anne Hammond: "'Look at that! You recognize Elmo!"' Hammond is director of the infant-toddler-parent program at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena.

McNeal downplays the industry's role in creating materialistic children. "The danger is in what the parents do. All of it is funneled through parents in one way or another. They introduce the brands, the TV, the marketplace to their kids, starting at birth."

After all, he says, many parents are addicted to brands, too.

Contact Barbara Meltz at

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Retail and religion: Friars hold Mass, hear confession at the mall

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Amanda Zkiab visits The Citadel Mall four or five times a week, but the 25-year-old isn't there to scour the sale racks, stuff herself with food-court goodies or cruise for a date.

Zkiab bypasses the shops and goes straight to the Catholic Center, which offers Mass, confession and spiritual guidance in a place where people normally worship couture and pray they haven't reached their credit limit. Even the rosaries are free.

"It's so convenient, there's no excuse," Zkiab said one afternoon after Mass. "When I'm done, it's like, 'Oh, I can shop."'
... (Please click on the link above for the full article.)

I'm not too sure about this one. I like the idea of someone being available at a "church" during the week, as most churches in the U.S. are locked during the week and some even go so far as to gate their parking lots. I would also like the idea of a daily service (I am not Catholic). What I don't like about this idea is that it smacks of a "drive through" church. Also, have we gotten so far away from God that He has to plumb the depths of hell to find us? I am afraid that as a society we have done just that.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ants and Elephants

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Brian McLaren: When we "do theology," we are clay pots pondering the potter, kids pondering their father, ants discussing the elephant. At some level of profundity and accuracy, we are bound to be inadequate or incomplete all the time, in almost anything we say or think, considering our human limitations, including language, and God's infinite greatness.

D.A. Carson: Here it is again: the absolute antithesis. Either we can know God exhaustively, or we are restricted to the mysterious. Of course it always true that we cannot know God exhaustively: we are not omniscient. God is infinitely greater than we are. Moreover, the best of the modernist theologians were among the most adamant on this point. It did not take postmodernism to discover that God is infinitely greater than we and in that sense forever remains mysterious. But although the comparison of elephants and ants is helpful at one level, it overlooks the fact that in this case the ants have been made in the image of the elephant, and this elephant has not only communicated with the ants in ant-language, but has also, in the person of his Son, become an "ant" while remaining an "elephant."....
p. 129

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Schoolgirls 'modesty' skirt ban

A school is banning skirts so that female pupils can "maintain modesty" in certain lessons.
Broadstone Middle School in Poole, Dorset, said the decision had been made by the school's governors so that boys and girls can join in the same lessons.

Some parents are unhappy at the ban and think that it has been imposed because of some girls wearing short skirts.

Poole Borough Council said that the school was within its rights to impose the trousers-only rule.

Head teacher Marilyn Warden said skirts were not appropriate during lessons such as music and drama.

"In order to give girls the same opportunities as boys for a safe, active and healthy lifestyle, while maintaining their modesty, it has been considered by our school governors that trousers for all pupils is a practical and appropriate dress requirement."

The school will impose the ban from January next year and rule that all pupils wear full length trousers at the 673-pupil school.

A council spokeswoman said the rule could be relaxed in a heat wave and "appropriate" clothing could be worn then.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/06/21 16:24:25 GMT

Monday, June 20, 2005

News That Should Raise a Few Eyebrows

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Spanish men who refuse to lift a finger around the house are facing new legal sanctions.

By Katya Adler
BBC News, Madrid

MPs in Spain have drawn up a marriage contract for use in civil ceremonies which obliges men to share household chores and the care of children and elderly family members.

The new law, which will be introduced this summer in Spain, promises a revolution in a country where nearly half of all men admit to doing no housework at all.

Puffing and panting and swearing under his breath, 36-year-old Santi Risco tries to put up an ironing board. He doesn't have much success and it's a pretty painful sight watching a previously undomesticated Spanish male trying hard to change with the times.

"Spanish law is changing so men have to do 50% of the housework," Santi tells me, rather red-faced. "I am getting married this autumn so I am learning things I've never done before: ironing, cleaning floors and doing the washing up.

"It's not that I'm a macho man. It's just that I've never been taught these things before."


Santi's trying to make up for lost time. He gives up on the ironing board and heads for the bathroom, ready to clean the mirrors. He is a man with a mission. The contract he will sign at his civil wedding ceremony this September will oblige him - by law - to share domestic responsibilities with his partner.

Failure to do so will affect the terms of a divorce settlement, should he ever find himself in that position. But even as Santi cleans up his act, Aintzane, his wife-to-be, says she remains skeptical about the new law.

"It's good that Santi is beginning to do things in the house. Well, he has to. I told him about the consequences if he doesn't. But it's not just men. Women in Spain are also part of the problem.

"Our mothers tell us to do the housework when we are little girls. So when we go to a relationship we do the housework."

So can this "housework law" as it has been dubbed here really change Spanish cultural traditions? Statistics show that Spanish women spend up to five times longer on housework than their husbands.

If they have a full-time job, they still do three times more housework.

A study five years ago by the Centre for Sociological Investigation concluded that Spanish fathers spent an average of 13 minutes a day looking after their children. And only 19% of Spanish men thought it was right for mothers of school age children to have a full-time job.

Margarita Uria is the MP who set up the new law.

"It's all a question of education", she says. "Starting with this law, but we should also teach children in schools. Men have to learn to start taking more responsibility in the home and women have to help them do it. This is beginning to change. After all, the Spanish parliament was unanimous in approving this law."


At a nearby Madrid bar though, the view shared over a few draughts of beer was that there was little chance of change, law or no law.

"Older generations will never change. Old Spanish machos are set in their ways," says Maria, a shopkeeper. "The younger generations probably will change eventually but because society is evolving, not because of this law."

"My husband wouldn't iron a shirt to save his life," says Berta, who described herself as an exasperated housewife. "It's not that he can't. It's just that he won't. He'll never change."

Eduardo, a waiter at the bar, says he thinks the law "is ridiculous".

"It's up to couples to work out the balance of relationships for themselves," he says. "This law gives the impression that all Spanish men are machos, which we're not."

"I already cook at home," says banker Miguel. "I also pick up the kids from school."

"Liar!" his wife interjects. "Yes I do," insists Miguel. "There was that time when you had to go to work early and took the children to school..." The couple dissolve in to laughter.

Iron will

"I don't like the new law at all," says Patricia, a schoolteacher. "I love macho men. They are more masculine and I don't care about doing some housework."

A number of women's rights groups in Spain say they oppose the housework law because it belittles the issue of sexual equality, making it laughable.
Almudena Rodriguez del Llano, a spokeswoman for the group Women for Democracy says: "This law is ridiculous and impossible to enforce.

"What is a woman going to do if her husband doesn't help her at home? March to the local police station and report him? You can just imagine the expression on the faces of the officers on duty, can't you?"

But while the law has been criticized by some, it has inspired others. The Barcelona-based inventor, Pep Torres, has designed a washing machine called Your Turn. It uses fingerprint technology so that it is impossible for the same person to use it twice in a row.

The idea, he says, is that men will be forced to share washing duties with their partner. And Pep has not stopped there.

He has also come up with a cunning idea to persuade even the most macho of men to do the ironing - heavy weights hanging down from the iron. Every time you sweep the iron across the board, you build some fabulous muscle!

"Basically my aim was to stop macho men sitting around the house doing nothing except drinking beers," says Pep.

One man who has already put down his beer and put on an apron is Santi. Hard at work at the kitchen sink and with Aintzane keeping a watchful eye, I found him practicing his new marriage vows: To love, to cherish and to do the washing-up.

If you carried this legislation to its logical conclusion, women would then be forced into the work place to balance the earning capabilities in marriages. While it should not be beneath a man to lend a hand in domestic areas when necessary or to know how the home functions, it should not be forced upon him to do so. Equal rights, my eye! I do not want anyone else in my kitchen; it is my realm of rule. :)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Hold Your Applause

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Sound theology is sometimes as simple as good manners.

When I first met her she was a spirited feisty young teenager. I supposed she was born that way. When she was eight years old, her family attended a conference where her father was one of the speakers. One evening there was a musical program during which the enthusiastic leader encouraged, "Let's give God a hand." At that she got up and began to walk toward the exit. Her surprised father reached her before she fulfilled her intention.

"What are you doing?" he inquired.

"I'm leaving," she firmly replied.

"But," he reasoned, "wouldn't that be rude?"

"Well," she clenched her argument, "they're being rude to God!"

The family followed her out.

As a college student today she knows it gets a lot worse. People aren't just flippantly "giving God a hand." In many services they routinely give each other a hand, especially in response to musical offerings.

Ministers will note that the practice has not caught on as a response to sermons. Perhaps we will have to install applause signs in our sanctuaries (or "worship centers" as they're now called) before people will get the idea. Then we'll have to learn to pause until the clapping subsides.

In this context, it's a pleasant surprise to hear a word of sanity from the secular priestess of manners, Judith Martin. In Miss Manners Rescues Civilization, she answers a question about applause in church with, "Having forgotten church manners, people are substituting those that would be proper for a performance...Hard as it may be to imagine, musicians in church are supposed to play or sing for the glory of God, not the pleasure of the congregation (which people interestingly slip and call 'the audience'). That is why there should be no applause in church. Not even for small children, who particularly need to have the purpose of the performance explained to them."

In response to the protest that the Bible authorizes clapping (as is Psalm 47:1), Miss Manners proves herself a better theologian than many evangelical worship leaders. "Where," she asks, "is the Biblical reference by which God commands applause to honor musicians...?"

Miss Manners hopes she is not pressing too fine a point when she distinguishes between the clapping of hands as an "expression of religious awe or joy and the clapping of hands to denote approval and appreciation for the achievements of our fellow mortals."

The specific problem Miss Manners addresses is the tip of the iceberg of worship malpractice. Too many evangelical worshipers are like the man shopping for his wife's Christmas present and choosing something which pleases himself. So we go to church expecting to be soothed, entertained and sent home feeling good.

It hardly occurs to us to ask, "What will please God?" The subjects, not the Object of worship, are the focus. The result is that we no longer know how to conduct ourselves in God's house. We lack worship manners or even the sense that we need them.

If you invite me to your home, I'll come with my manners, which are both attitude (I respect you) and actions (I'll conform to the expectation of your household).

What attitudes should you bring to worship? God wants exuberant joy (Psalm 100:1-2) and reverent awe (Hebrews 12:28-29).

What actions does He approve in worship? Singing, praying, reading and preaching His Word, testifying to and confessing our faith, giving offerings, celebrating sacraments and making holy vows.

If you think worship manners are no big deal, you might check out the story of two Old Testament fellows who forgot their manners and lost their lives because, "Among those who approach me, I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored" (Leviticus 10:1-7).

By William Smith. Reprinted with permission from World magazine, August 31, 1996

True Love

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What would you say if a man said he loved his wife simply because she cooks and cleans for him? Would you say that man truly loved his wife? Most people would say, "no." Why then, do people say that they love Jesus or God but claim they do not need to know Him more fully? How can you genuinely love someone of whom you know nothing of their character? Simply stated, you cannot. So the next time you find yourself or an acquaintance saying they do not need theology or doctrine to love Jesus, search out your heart to see if there is any truth to that statement. God would not have us be ignorant. Come to know Him better and have a real genuine relationship with God.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Authentic Beauty - The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman

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Leslie Ludy's book, Authentic Beauty, is a fresh and biblical discussion of beauty, modesty, and purity of heart that is exceptionally honest and unrelentingly in its challenges for Christian young women today to become the princess' they were called to be. Ludy goes beyond the simple, outward rules about modesty and relationships to matters of the heart and our relationship with Jesus, our true Prince. This passionate and intimate relationship with Christ is the heart of Ludy's work and life.

In this book, Ludy is frank about her own adolescence and teen years, her past and present desires and fears, her triumphs and her failures. It is the story of her becoming a woman of great beauty before God, a woman who would sacrifice anything for her Lord. Because of the candor with which Ludy speaks, parental guidance in reading this book is encouraged for parents of younger girls. It is, however, this same candor that speaks to the hearts of so many young women as they are able to relate to the author's life experiences and heart. She offers hope to those who believe that true beauty and purity are unattainable for them. Ludy gives young women the tools they need to become beautiful brides for Christ and "lilies among the thorns."

Leslie Ludy's book ends in a challenge for the readers to become women who "discover passionate, daily, unhindered intimacy with their true Prince, Jesus Christ." Her prayer is that they become women "utterly different from the world around them..radiant...confident...fulfilled...and possess a truly authentic beauty that flows from complete and utter devotion to their Prince." If we belong to God, isn't this what each of us, as women of God, should desire? This book is a must read for young women today's changing world.

Investment Advice

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If I had some money to "play" with, I believe I would put it all into a reputable hearing aid company because in the future most people will be deaf. I say this because of the frequency of times that my car stereo has been drowned out by the stereo of a car nearby. Last night was the ultimate experience for my family in this regard.

We were dining (inside) at a small Chinese restaurant when we could hear the bass from the stereo of a car passing by. This stereo was so loud that the vibrations from the bass set off the car alarm of another car that it passed in the parking lot! As the offending car belonged to a pizza delivery person who worked in the shopping center where the Chinese restaurant was, car alarms were set off more than once. While we found it somewhat amusing at the time, I do not believe I would have found it amusing if it were our alarm that had been set off or if we had to live next to said person. Is it any wonder that society is so debase when individuals try to make it impossible to hear God's still, small voice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mall Madness

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My mother and I have a long history of shopping. When I was quite small, we would go shopping with my aunt all day on Saturdays. At lunch, we would eat a department store where ladies chatted while enjoying their meals served on real china complete with linen table cloths and napkins (there were no straws,either), fresh flowers on the tables, and a strolling fashion show waltzed by their tables. Those were happy memories for both of us as we enjoyed the delicate side of the female life. Not so anymore.

While visiting my family, my mother and I attempted to shop at the mall. There are no longer any department store restaurants, only fast food establishments that do not even offer paper plates, much less a nice place to enjoy your meal. There is no tinkling of silverware on china, sounds of ladies chatting pleasantly, or models in beautiful dresses coming by your table. Instead there is piped in music that does not lend civility, the sound of obscenities uttered by scantily and roughly clad youth, and visually assaulting photographs in the store windows revealing more about the models' bodies than I care to ever know and their lack of moral fortitude equaling their lack of clothing.

My mother, daughter, and I did not last very long at the mall as we were quickly disheartened and disgusted. We were there long enough, however, for a lone young woman in a long skirt and head covering to ask my daughter where she purchased her skirt. :) She was the only person we could find (other than ourselves) that was dressed decently. Now mind you, we were not expecting everyone to wear skirts. We were merely hoping for a little more of people's assets to be covered. :)

My question is this - as Satan desires for the lines between genders to be blurred and the authority of man as head of the household undermined with feminazi-ism, who will be strong and stand in the gap? Who will present a living picture of biblical femininity?

Monday, June 06, 2005

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Last night at church we had a farewell party for our pastor and his family as they are moving away. It was a time of very warm fellowship as the air conditioner in the fellowship hall was not working properly, leaving the room a tropical 90 degrees. As I was in the room, glowing in my Sunday attire, I kept reminding myself that this was good Uganda training or that women did this sort of thing all the time before air conditioning, but still I continued to melt and wilt. For most of us, our lives are ones of ease and comfort, but is that really a blessing? I find that when we are too comfortable, it is difficult to identify with those who are not. We must be continually on guard, lest we forget the plight of others.
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This photo was taken by Kevin Carter in 1994 in the Sudan. The child in the picture is crawling to a United Nations food camp, and he is one kilometer away. After taking the picture, the photographer walked away rather than helping the child. Three months later he committed suicide from depression.

What role do we play in the lives of these little ones? Are we the photographer who does nothing - perhaps because we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation? Are we the vulture, living off the exploitation of children in sweat shops?

Regardless of whether it is intentional or not, we each play a role in the lives of others, even if it is to turn away as the photographer did. This we cannot choose. What we can choose is which role we will play. Please visit a reputable charitable organization such as World Vision and prayerfully consider what you must do.