Some marketing firms actually do market research in classrooms during school time. They might do taste tests, surveys, opinion polls or focus groups in class, track students internet activity or run internet panels, in which students answer questions on line.
Juliet Schor found “evidence of extensive use of school time to conduct quantitative surveys on thousands of children” in the US. School-based surveys provide marketers with a cheap means of accessing a broad cross-section of children and because the children are a captive audience they get high rates of participation.
The schools are paid according to the time taken and the number of students involved. A focus group might take 20 mins to an hour and children may be asked to compare different brands of breakfast cereals. Companies such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, Mattel, and Pizza Hut utilise in-school market research.
Kidsay is a US marketing firm that specialises in market research in schools. It boasts “relationships with thousands of schools in hundreds of US cities” nationwide. It claims that by “conducting research in the most natural, kid-friendly environment – the classroom – kids are comfortable and forthcoming [that is, their defences are down] so results are more accurate and actionable”. Kidsay uses teachers to identify the most articulate children as well as the trend-setters and it conducts focus groups, concept and product testing, kid panels, advertising and promotion testing, and in-home placement.
Weekly Reader Corporation offers schools incentives for student participation in their market research panels, WRInsiders. It advertises to corporations wanting to research children's markets:
Reference: ‘Weekly Reader Research’ Weekly Reader Corporation, 2009
"Since 1902, Weekly Reader has been reaching and teaching kids and teenagers. Generations of parents and teachers have trusted Weekly Reader to help their kids learn and grow into the world around them.
When Noggin, an ‘educational’ television channel, was established in the US in 1999 it conducted market research in schools by getting school students to fill out a 27 page survey called “My All About Me Journal”. Second grade students at Watchung School received the survey when they were at school together with disposable cameras with which to take pictures of their lives and the things they liked. The school was also asked to allow the company to conduct half hour focus groups with the children each week for six months and observe the children in class. The school was paid $7100.
In the US only six states had legislation limiting marketing research in schools in 2004, some merely requiring parental consent.
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