FRONT PAGE / POSTS
by Ramona Lyons| San Francisco, US
Sunday, 24 June 2012
tags: americas, consumer culture, emergence, fuzzy sets, semiotics
Lately, it seems as if there’s been an increased blending of ‘child’ and ‘adult’ worlds, particularly in health and personal care, entertainment, and play and gaming.
But this blending is not complete- across categories there’s a membrane between what’s considered ‘adult’ and ‘child’ territory, and this membrane has become more permeable- at least in one direction.
Consider the trend of juxtaposing the simple joys and iconography of childhood with products purchased by adults. Target, JC Penny and other brands have recently tapped into the sweet simple pleasures of play and discovery, presenting candy-colored worlds full of lightness and surprise.
There are also Tide Pods, which are brightly colored single dose pods of Tide laundry detergent housed in a ‘gumball’ tub. Unfortunately, young children (who are cultural decoders in training) are reading these codes and mistaking the detergent for candy. But, there is no mistake in terms of how this is branded for adults. The advertising, form factor and color of the product lead us to the realm of the child. Infusing childlike fun and wonder into an adult realm defined by efficacy can be revolutionary- Tide Pods are a runaway product.
This approach dimensionalizes brands and offers up resonance in a consumer world where adults now have more permission to engage with ‘the child inside’ (albeit within the loose retro construct of an uncomplicated idyllic past and aesthetic). But, expressing the child in the adult feels more comfortable than accessing the adult in the child; it’s important to remember that the membrane still exists and the permeability feels more appropriate when it’s unidirectional.
For example, for a long time social anxiety about this has bubbled up in the realm of cosmetics. Children must remain a bit innocent of the trappings of culture. This links to key cultural beliefs about the sacrosanct nature of childhood prevalent today. Children must be children, and even in our evolving world of kidpreneurs, child activists, artists, family decision-makers and child transgenders, childhood is still a very defined state of being with key emotional resonance for adults. Even without the danger of product misinterpretation, the idea of children tapping into ‘adult’ territory is more squirm-worthy and often relegated to the space of play or humor to remain palatable.