Vulnerable consumers: the social impact of branding on children

Stuart Roper, Benita Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to focus on a relatively unexplored area of branding literature, which is a study of the social impact of branding upon ‘‘tweens,’’ pre-adolescent children aged between seven and eleven. Brands promote a desire in consumers that allows a premium price to be commanded. What is the impact upon children from lower socio-economic groups who may not be able to afford these premium brands?
Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory qualitative study involving focus groups with primary school teachers in the UK and Kenya and open-ended projective questionnaires with primary school children in both countries formed the primary data collection. The data were then analysed using thematic analysis. The research objectives were as follows: to assess the importance of brands in the lives of primary school children and whether the exposure to brands has a positive or negative impact on children; to investigate the social impact of branding on children from low income families from the viewpoint of children and teachers; and to assess the cross-cultural impact of brands by carrying out a comparative study on children/teachers from Kenya as well as the UK.
Findings – Brands can be the cause of social division amongst children resulting in the formation of ‘‘in’’ groups and ‘‘out’’ groups. Those who do not own the right brands may be discriminated against and experience social impacts which include being teased, bullied, having low self esteem and being socially excluded. Their parents also felt the effects through pester power, the guilt of not being able to buy their children the latest brands or by financially struggling to provide these brands for their children. However, positive impacts of branding also emerged from the study.
Research limitations/implications – A brand-oriented culture impacts upon school life in both developed and developing nations. This is an exploratory study and therefore small sample.
Originality/value – A contribution to address the paucity of research on the negative impact of branding to primary school children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-728
Number of pages17
JournalEqual Opportunities International
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


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