Sunday, May 5, 2013

Branded Balls *Not Those Kind!

WARNING:  I'm going to say the word ball or balls a lot in this post.  Not in a dirty manner, but if you are like me, you'll giggle anyway.  Balls.

Some things that I was vaguely aware of before having a child have come closer into focus for me over the past year and a bit.

One of those things is the ever-present corporate culture in North America.  It made me annoyed before the baby, and it makes me more annoyed now, since I've discovered that there are virtually no controls on advertising to children.  Things that other people see as cute seems overwhelming to me.  It is almost like marketing departments are cowhands, wanting to brand new calves with their ranchers mark as soon as possible.*

Don't get me wrong, sometimes I think knowing a company's product and preferring it over another is fine.  Some companies make pants that fit me better than others.  However, as much as that corporation would like it, I don't want to advertise that fact to the world by having their name or logo across the butt of said pants.
I feel the same about children's wear.  A one-year old does not need a company's logo across the front of their sweat-shirt or on their diapered butt.  They can't even read!  Other companies get around the lack of literacy by putting character likenesses on *everything*.

*Get off my lawn portion of the rant:* When I was a little kid, which was not forever ago, you could get licensed lunchboxes and backpacks, superhero underoos, and a character shirt if you were lucky enough to visit a themepark.  When I hit my teen years, characters and logos started appearing on more things.
Now, you can't swing your arm without hitting something that is either logo'd or that has a licensed character printed on it, especially if it is aimed at kids.

This rant came about because I wanted to get my child a bouncy ball.  Just a plain old rubber bouncy ball.  It is one of those staple toys that I think every kid should have.

The first issue I had is that regular old rubber balls, for bouncing, that are not a sport specific ball, are really hard to find.  I'm assuming this is because marketing departments have yet to find a way to market them as 'educational' and put some sort of computer in them.  If you don't believe me, go to the Toys R Us website and search for 'ball.'  When I searched today, it pulled up 82 items and none of them were a plain old rubber ball.

I haven't had a lot of luck with other retailers either.

Imagine my surprise when I was picking up supplies from the drugstore yesterday and they had rubber balls, in a size perfect for toddlers, in their seasonal section!  For only two dollars!

Unfortunately, every single ball had a lisenced character on it.  They were also clearly intended to be gendered.  You had your choice of the very pink Barbie ball, the also very pink Hello Kitty ball, the Disney Cars ball (blue & red with only male characters on it) or the Pixar Toy Story ball (blue & green with only Buzz Lightyear & Woody on it).

At this point, I gave up and the baby in my stroller picked the Hello Kitty ball.  She knows a good deal when she sees one.  At least Hello Kitty is not terribly prevalent in North American advertising.

At this point, my kid isn't able to identify common characters.  That day is not far off judging from other kids we know.  And I don't know how capable I am of navigating a world where there is a cartoon character at every corner who wants to sell her things.

Sometimes, a toy ball just needs to be a ball and not a marketing ploy.

*I'm not going to make any excuses for this pun.  I'm not sorry.


  1. My kids and I had a discussion, as soon as they were old enough to talk, about the difference between something that has a licensed character on it and something that doesn't: ie. they may be exactly the same, but the one with the character will be ten dollars more. They know that the picture doesn't increase the value. (They are also kids, so pick the licensed version sometimes.) And we keep having the discussion as they get older. We've also talked about the fact that advertising is specifically designed to get you to buy things, and how companies use psychology to do it, so they're already skeptical of ads. (I'm so proud! :)

    I get around the branding by making a lot of stuff for them myself. Which, I acknowledge, would be pretty hard with a rubber ball. :) Have you tried dollar stores for that kind of thing?

    1. I did try the dollar store near us and they didn't have any rubber balls. It is where I got some of her bath toys (technically, it is a sandcastle set for the beach, but she doesn't know that!).

      We haven't really had to acquire a lot of toys yet (most of what we do have has been gifts), but I like your approach!