- Mount Kisco editor Jason Black and his wife, Frances Schoeder, both 32, are looking for a corporate sponsor to pay a half-million bucks for their soon-to-be-born son's name. - New York Post, July 27, 2001
January 25, 2020
Preliminary Report on the Psychological Effects of Branding Children by the Office of the Surgeon General
Though there's been much media attention devoted to the issues facing so-called Generation Brand X, the group of sponsored children born in the first decade of the millennium, a report by the Surgeon General shows that "branded" children suffer no significant social disadvantage.
Requisitioned in the wake of the apparent suicide of Diet Zima Robertson, a well-liked 15-year-old in Pensacola, Florida, who had trouble controlling his weight, the study monitored a group of 20 children at Mattel Stephenson High School.
Companies began monetising children's names when they exhausted the branding possibilities of ballparks and city streets. As the first generation of branded children entered their teens, many educators expressed concerns that they were suffering identity problems. For example, children whose sponsors merged during their early adolescence often rebelled against their new, hyphenated names. In extreme cases, whole gangs of malcontents "went generic," simply calling themselves "dude." In the case of Matsushita-Bertelsmann Jones, the merged company was forced to put a lien on his family's assets because of damage done to the company's brand awareness quotient when the child inadvertently misspelled his name.
In the most famous court case, Yahoo-Amalgamated Castor Oil was sued by Yahoo-Amalgamated Castor Oil Lifshitz on the grounds that his new brand identity was causing emotional distress. Though Mr Lifshitz did suffer some social isolation during Yahoo-Amalgamated Castor Oil's aggressive attempt to penetrate the youth market, his lawyers could not prove conclusively that his life would have been better with his given name, Marvin.
The findings of this report support that verdict. Of the children monitored in the study, who included Hasbro-Kenner Jones, Ben & Jerry's Cohen and Nestle-Disney O'Malley, many felt their brand identities improved their social lives. The only child in the study who felt isolated as a result of his name was Trojan Bloomberg.
Another issue that has attracted attention is the effect of rebranding on children. Though Heinz Heinz received a considerable bonus for acting rebellious when the company was marketing its green ketchup to early adopter boys, he was put on Ritalin when the firm wanted to project a more adult image.
The report found that these instances, while notable, are isolated. And although branded children were initially confused, most felt happier in the long run with their new identity. Some, including Michelob Johnson, felt they really grew into their identity in their teenage years.
The report makes a few recommendations for reform. Due to issues raised by Marlboro Jones, whose growth was stunted at four feet six inches, companies should be discouraged from pressuring branded children into fulfilling their duties at an inappropriate age.
Additionally, competing companies should not discourage branded children from mingling with other branded children, a recommendation that may have practical value. Many believe that without corporate pressure to stay apart, Coke Schwartz never would have eloped with Pepsi Lopez.
Pfizer P Reiser
Robert Levine is a regular contributor to Postscript.