Sunday, August 26, 2007

Let's learn about brands!

Isn't mini-Walmart the cutest learning experience ever?! I was kind of partial to the Pfizer lab though.

This past weekend, I took a trip with my nephews to Papalote (Kite), the children's museum in Chapultepec Park. In many ways, it was everything I would expect from a children's museum - there was an Imax theater, there were games, there were helpers in orange vests reading "Cuate" (Friend), and it was about 95% educational pandemonium. There was one way it differed from the other children's museums I've visited however - all the major exhibits were branded. The science lab was Pfizer Laboratory. The mini grocery store was Walmart. The make-your-own newspaper was Reforma. And I came out with vaguely positive feelings toward Nestle, though I don't remember what their name was tied to.
The advertising industry sometimes gets a bad rap as a bunch of unabashed money-grubbers who use psychology to manipulate people and make them buy things they don't need. Usually I prefer to put the onus on the general public to be a little more critical - you don't have to buy what they sell after all. However, there was something vaguely malevolent about the rampant branding of the non-profit children's museum.
It didn't surprise me though. However many "branded messages" I get a day in the U.S., it's got to be double here. Every possible space is sold for advertising - I pass 20 street-level billboards on the way to work alone - and illegal billboards clutter every sky line.
As we walked out of the museum, we passed a bright red Coca Cola soda fountain with interactive screens, set up as an educational station, and my 5-year-old nephew took a veer right into it. "I'm thirsty," he pronounced.

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