Adolescent Marketing

Posted by jael on Jan 16, 2011 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey |

I have been annoyed and amazed in turns by email, sales ads, I have gotten since Christmas from Macy’s.  Their images offer icons that look like option buttons, that you can not click.  The only way to enter the sale is one “Shop Now,” tab, and once you get to the main page, the items offered there differ from those on the tease-ad page.  This all got me thinking about marketing in general.  Grocery and discount department stores are renown for sales ploys that get people in the doors with the promise of bargains, and then do their prankster pricing like the man behind the curtain to keep their books in the black.  My marketing musings made me consider my adolescent son, who has begun to learn how to craft a message to prompt permission or favor.

All this input prompts me to also consider the undeniable social reality of relational marketing.  Then a notion struck me like a mosh pit!  What would happen if adolescents organized?  How crazy would it be if there were a clandestine, fraternal, marketing order for adolescents?  Only those who knew the secret handshake or wore the signet ring with the infrared crest could enter the meetings dedicated to playing the parents one day at a time.  What if such an organization had sponsors, hip aficionados of context, that would coach our kids in the right way to massage a message or carry a load?  What if they tweeted daily persuasion tactics on Twitter and had a Facebook presence?  What would be the name of such an organization?  What would be the title of their on-line manual?  And would we, the uninitiated and technologically-outdated parents, even know such an order existed?

If The Boy, 12, told me that his Physics teacher was adding an extra 50% free to his test grade, I, The Mamma, of course would look for the catch.

If The Boy, 12, advertised that his English teacher was doing a half-off assignment load, I, The Mamma, of course would check the fine print (on the school’s homework site).

If The Boy, 12, offered me a FREE homework pass from his Geometry teacher, I, The Mamma, of course would scoff!  Like not gonna happen, Son, like Polar Bears are more likely on a deserted, tropical island, and I don’t mean an inane Lost plot twist.

However, in daily conversations, during carpools, at the dinner table, or during Family Meetings, like most Mammas, I am more easily persuaded to take Adolescent Marketing at face value.  After all, my first-born, only and sweet son, The Boy, loves me and wouldn’t contrive to trick his mamma.  Would he?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so sure.  Recent imaginings make me certain that The Boy could, in fact, engage in covert adolescent marketing campaigns of his own, and that I can be quite a mark.

True, the majority of his ads seem designed to persuade permission, not distort truth, but what if other tactics are being employed?

How many other ploys designed to fool Mammas are out there? What sly, dazzling marketing designs lie beneath the surface of adolescent permission-seeking promotions and rationale-deductions/social networks. . .

Here, confiscated at great personal risk by an undercover operative, are some of the most common Adolescent Marketing Antics of the Anonymous Association quoted from their own handbook:


Make big, bold confessions and independently offer unsolicited confessions of wrong doing. Adolescent Marketing Antics of the Anonymous Association (AMAAA) recommends this tactic called ‘consequence establishing’ when members have other, more major transgressions they seek to conceal.  Upfront admissions of minor offenses conceal the ‘original’ violation from view, and, if only for a very short period, help members avoid major parental penalties. In some cases, special rewards are even given by parents who see the member’s confession like a bargain, and seek to reward his honesty, but it’s actually the age-old bait and switch.

The month before Prom (or desired event like a concert or party), boast that  you have slashed your social engagements to polish your grades before report cards. But don’t say that you’re actually only reducing your face time with friends, and are gaming together on line as much as doing homework when you studiously sit at your computer. Nor should you mention that you send around 1,000 more texts those weeks.  In most cases, the halo effect of your proactive approach to school work will prompt the all-night-out permission you seek for prom night (or coveted event), and, in rare but documented cases, might even help raise your grades.

Teenage siblings can look Jumbo-sized and cool to smaller brothers and sisters.  As annoying as they are, younger siblings can be bribed to do chores, lend money and cover your absences quite easily and relatively cheaply.  Do not underestimate the power of Big Sibling Pacts.  You can make your younger siblings feel like you’re doing them a favor when you swear them to secrecy about who broke Grandmother Margaret’s antique candlesticks.

Certain everyday behaviors (such as consistent use of manners, keeping a tidy room, regular bathing, tooth brushing and making eye contact) are used to gauge just how trustworthy or otherwise reliable a teenager is.  If they’re consistently employed, they can ‘put a halo of good value’ around an adolescent… Even if the reality is very different.


This sci-fi nickname, coined by an infamous AMAAA alum, refers to the hundreds of ways we teens can shrink effort invested in chores while still appearing to have completed the tasks.  Parents might be responsible for making the Family Chore Wheel, but it’s the kids that control the how the jobs get done.

So, for example, when cleaning the litter box, put the majority of the effort into the first impression… the sweep around the box and the big chunks.  If you skip the basics or leave the lid of the box askew, you’re just begging for a parent to come behind and inspect your work.  The goal is to avoid inspections entirely.


How much is a kiss, hug or smile worth to a mother of a teenager? No idea? Well, that’s because mothers’ hormone levels juggle almost as often as our own as they begin their marches toward menopause.  Use the affection your moms seek to encourage their goodwill and favor…

I am unable to transcribe anymore of the purloined AMAAA handbook.  The document emitted a strong, sudden gust of Clearasil and self-destructed shrieking, “Ahhh, Maaa!”

AMAAA… “Ahhh, Maaa!

Parents of adolescents beware…

They have organized and are marketing their message…

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


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