Advertisers Know Parents’ Weak Spots

by Shannon Hembree on September 20, 2012

As I was walking passed a store the other day, a fact became so clear to me it almost made me laugh…almost…

You could market absolutely anything to parents, and they’re immediate response will be that they have to buy it. We may not actually lay money down and do it, but we will have that moment when we think we should…that maybe it would help…

You see, we parents are a desperate group. We haven’t slept well since our kids were born. We rarely eat real meals while sitting down, and if we do, the conversation is rarely based on adult topics. If our children are young, we have waded through the waters of various tantrums at least a couple times that day. We have picked raisins out of our couch, toys out of the toilet, and crusted something or other off our children’s faces. And again, we haven’t slept well…in perhaps years.

So let’s look at exhibit A, shall we? The product that started this whole train of thought was a poster of something called Kids Calm from a nutrition store. I had no idea what this product was all about, but they had me at “Kids Calm.” Are you kidding me? A product that promises to calm down my kids? It’s advertising gold, I tell you. Of course there isn’t really a product on the market that can calm down kids. If it really existed, we parents would have heard of it by now, and we would all be having our kids drink it by the gallon. But can we just say the name together again? Kids…Calm…I feel kind of zen just saying it. Because my kids aren’t calm. They are – C-R-A-Z-Y. And I get it – it’s part of their charm. But there are days when calm would be nice, too.

And it’s not just promises of serenity and calm that draw us in – the mac daddy of all advertising gold is the promise of more sleep. Ever heard of the Sleep Sheep? It plays soothing sounds to lull your baby into quiet slumber. We had one. It didn’t work. And have you ever taken a look at how many parenting books there are out there on how to get your child to sleep through the night? I bought loads of them. Some of them helped…a little…but the thing that helped more than anything was the passage of time – I HATE when my mom is right about things like that! But when you are in the midst of child-induced sleep deprivation, you will try anything. You will believe any and all advertising claims, because they offer hope…and sleep.

Parents are also the victims of numerous claims that one product or other can turn their children into geniuses. Does Baby Einstein ring a bell? Again, marketing gold. It’s TV…that makes your child smarter…Can you think of anything better? You can make dinner…while your children are occupied…AND being turned into geniuses.

As with anything, however, the reality of these products is somewhat different. It’s like the weight-loss bars that promise amazing results with little to no effort. The reality is – they taste like crap and leave you hungry thirty minutes later. It’s the same as the wrinkle creams that promise to take years off your face in a matter of weeks. The reality is, time has done a dance on your face and there’s not much to be done other than to embrace the story those lines tell…well, either that or have plastic surgery. The reality is, some things you really do just have to go through. It’s part of this little thing we call life. It’s also part of the shared experience of parenthood. Because really – what else would we parents talk about when we get together if not sleep deprivation, potty training, and tantrums? Lord knows we don’t have enough free time to brush up on our own adult activities that make up the lion’s share of what people without kids talk about!

So take heart all you parents out there. We may be teetering on the edge of crazy as we twirl around this world of parenthood, but some day when we are rocking away on our porches with grandkids on our laps, we’ll be able to reminisce about these days. Equally as important, we will be able to laugh at our own kids going through it with their offspring. Because as my mom likes to tell me (okay, she’s never actually said this, but I think sometimes she thinks it), “payback is a bitch.”

Shannon Hembree is a SAHM for a first grader and twin toddlers. Her boys are going through a growth spurt…or something…and haven’t slept through the night in more than a month. If you told her there was a product out there that would help her get a good night’s sleep, she would likely buy it. You can follow her on Twitter @shannon1hembree.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Farrah September 20, 2012 at 8:43 am

Many a time I think back to our grandparents and those parents before them and wonder how they did it. My first purchase for my first child was a DVD set of Baby E for $20 on CL. I didn’t think it would make my kids brilliant- and at the time I didn’t know how I felt about them, but omg- they are 3.5 and 2 and all three LOVE those vids. They calm them right down if we’re, ah, struggling. And totally have the Sleep Sheep, Giraffe and Turtle from Cloud B. I credit them with my boys sleeping (kidding, but they do!).


Shannon September 20, 2012 at 11:04 am

Ohhh — my daughter always asks for the Turtle from Cloud B! We got the Baby E videos as a hand me down and my daughter would watch them as well. I read a report a few years back on how they were bad for kids in terms of taking away time they would normally be stimulated by interactions, etc. Sigh. I’m pretty confident Sesame Street is good for them though… 😉


Sarah K September 20, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Love this. I just spent $50 buying pillow pets that light up the ceiling with stars (I can’t remember the name — the ads are on TV) because the box said they help children fall asleep…Actually, they make children GO WILD. The room gets super bright and they start flashing the stars on each other and laughing hysterically. Just FYI. 😉


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