Title: Do Brazilian children have materialistic values? Drawings from
Title: Do Brazilian children have materialistic values? Drawings from high and
low income children around 9 years old
Abstract: There is much concern about the negative effects that advertising can have on
children, such as the development of materialistic values. Therefore, the aim of this paper is
to understand if children around 9 years old are developing materialistic values. For that
reason we collected drawings with children from a High Class school (36 drawings) and a
Low Class school (24 Drawings). We asked children to draw what came to mind when
thinking about going shopping. Materialism can be divided into three ideas: centrality
(possessions playing a central role in one’s life), happiness (possessions are connected to the
well-being and satisfaction with life) and success (more possessions as one is more
successful). Results indicate that children represent the concepts of happiness and success in
their drawings. Children represent going shopping with innumerous references to love and
happiness, filling drawing with happy and smiling people. Also, children represent their
presence in shopping environments surrounded by products, in shelves or shopping carts, thus
indicating the value of quantity in the shopping experience. These results indicate that at
some level Brazilian children are developing materialistic values.
There has been much discussion about the capacity of children to bear with marketing
promotional activities. It has been said that children, especially under age 10, haven´t
developed the capacity to understand advertising and protect themselves from it (Kline, 1993;
Schor, 2004; Linn, 2005; 2005b). Therefore, children are not prepared to deal with negative
influences that socialization agents can share with them. One of these negative influences is
materialism, or the “orientation which views material goods and money as being important
for personal happiness and social progress” (Ward & Wackman, 1971, p.422).
Materialism is a cultural trait that can be fostered trough the marketers’ effort (Parker,
Haytko, & Hermans, 2010). Therefore, the motivation for this paper relies on the negative
effects that marketing efforts can have on children under the age that they can deal with the
influences of the marketing promotional efforts. For that reason, the aim of this paper is to
gain deeper understanding of how children around 8 or 9 years represent the act of going
shopping. If children are really been negatively influenced and are becoming more
materialistic, then they should represent the act of going shopping in some manner that
denotes this personal trait. Consequently, we asked children to draw pictures that represented
what they think about “going shopping”.
Children account for almost 25% of Brazilian population, or 50 million consumers.
Brazilian economy has presented good results in the previous years, therefore prompting
international companies to expand their business in Brazil. Due to this unprecedented
economic rise, there has been much change in the Brazilian market. One of these changes is
the growing promotional efforts directed to children, since they represent a huge parcel of
Brazilian population and have the ability to largely influence adults, directly or indirectly
(Vecchio, 2002; Acuff, 1997; Veloso et al., 2010).
In order to accomplish the proposed objective, we undertook a data collection effort
with children around 8 and 9 years old. This limited age range encompasses the period when
children develop and are expected to have a greater understanding of the market and its
related concepts (John, 1999). After gaining access to private and public schools we
proceeded with the collection of drawings. Drawings can be very useful for researchers that
are interested in children as research subjects, because they rely on a communication skill
that children feel more at ease (Guber & Berry, 1993). We requested that children draw what
came to mind when they thought about going shopping. Results indicate that children in
general are very much in love with the act of buying and have a found relationship with
brands and products; therefore it can be sad that at some degree children are developing
2. Literature Review
The kids market or children’s market once had very small importance to companies
and marketing professionals. Since the Baby Boom and the social transformations that
occurred in the end of the last century this is not true anymore (McNeal, 1969, 1992, 1999,
2007). Nowadays, millions and millions are invested in product development, advertising and
other related marketing mix strategies. In Brazil the economic growth of the last decade
under Lula’s presidency has created a huge C class, with growing economic power. Until
then, the children of these D or E families would have almost no money at the disposal for
buying even the most basic products. With higher income available, there is a shift happening
in the market, with companies that were almost exclusively focused on A and B classes
focusing on the C class.
Consumer Socialization and Materialism
Since Ward (1974) coined the term consumer socialization much has been written on
this topic. See John (1999) for a throughout overview of the field. This theory posits that
children will develop as they gain consumer skills and knowledge related to the purchase of
goods, and the knowledge, attitudes, and values that motivate purchases (WARD, 1974,
MOSCHIS; CHURCHILL, 1978).
Most of these competencies will evolve between 5 and 12 years old, and after this
period only marginal developments will occur (McNeal, 1999). This means that the basis for
our capacities as consumers are laid down during this short period of time, afterwards our
knowledge will build on these competencies to refine our understanding of the market.
During this period of learning we, human beings, are subject to some influences. They are
called socialization agents, because they will act directly on children teaching them how to
perform their “duties” as consumers. The main socialization agents are the media, schools,
parents, peers, church and marketing professionals (John, 1999; Ville & Tartas, 2010). If the
influence of marketing is fostering materialism among children (Parker, Haytko, & Hermans,
2010), then we, as marketing professionals, should be more attentive to our actions directed
to children under 12 at least.
Ward & Wackman (1971) first defined materialism as the importance people would
give to material goods and money as a central driver for personal happiness and social
progress. Materialism can be divided into three ideas: centrality (possessions playing a
central role in one’s life), happiness (possessions are connected to the well-being and
satisfaction with life) and success (more possessions as one is more successful) (Richins &
Dawson, 1992). As a result of this kind of personal trait, the individual would place much
importance on his possessions, having trouble in sharing and always feeling that he needs to
accomplish more that what he has already done.
In order to accomplish the proposed objective of this research, the authors decided for
drawing as the data collection method. Children, especially of lower age have some
difficulties in verbally explaining the felling, opinions and thoughts. This is one of the
reasons that studies that have used verbal and non verbal measures to research children have
encountered conflicting results (Bree, 1995; Donohue, Henke and Donohue, 1980). Besides
that children have historically demonstrated much pleasure in drawing (Cox, 1992).
Drawings are very useful, because they allow the research to gain insight into the
thoughts and feeling of the artist, in this case the child (THOMAS; SILK, 1990;
MALCHIODI, 1998; FOKS-APPELMAN, 2007). But as any research toll, the collection of
drawings also have some drawbacks. First of all, small children cannot draw. Until 2 years
old children will only draw circles, squares, rectangles and crosses (Malchiodi, 1998; Gross;
Hayne, 1999). The age that children gain the capacity to draw varies across cultures, but
usually happens around age 4 (Foks-Appelman, 2007). Until age 3, children only scribble on
paper (Leo, 1970). After age 9 children will start to want their drawing to have a certain level
of realism that is only attainable trough training, since this usually does not happen children
grow away from drawing (Cox, 1992).
Despite being a very used technique in other fields, such as psychology, education
and medicine, drawing as data collection method is still underused and studied within the
marketing academy. Major players in the children’s market, such as Nickelodeon and Disney,
have been using this method for some time now. In the last decade, some author such as
McNeal and Ji (1996, 2003), Lindstrom (2003), Yuen (2004), Chan (2006), Veloso and
Hildebrand (2007) have experienced with this method with interesting results.
As entering the field, our first challenge was to obtain access to children and
permission to collect their drawing. Our effort was therefore directed to private and public
schools in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In Brazil, private schools are typically for class A or B, and
public schools are for C and D. The first school that accepted our invitation to be part of this
research was one that focused on Class A+, with tuition at the same level of top business
schools in Brazil (around US$ 600 per month). At this school, named from now on school A,
we collected 36 drawings. The second school to accept our invitation was a public Class C
school, named from now on school C, were we collected 24 drawings. The stimulus for
children was – please draw what comes to mind when you think about going shopping. Class
teachers were responsible for the data collection, because schools have strict policies on who
can enter school grounds. To allow for the researchers to coordinate the data collection much
bureaucracy would be needed.
4. Data Analysis
First of all we conducted a descriptive analysis of the drawing to understand what
kind of products, stores and brands were represented. For school A, the top three stores were
supermarkets (11 appearances), toy stores (10 appearances) and shopping centers (9
appearances). Among children from school C, results were not as concentrated as for school
A. Movie theaters appeared 5 times, soccer stadiums, supermarkets and low income street
shopping zones (Bras and 25 de Marco) appeared 4 times. With 3 appearances we observed
shopping centers and the Zoo. Despite been solicited to draw things related to shopping,
children were free to draw anything they wanted. If at first we were intrigued with the
presence of the Zoo among School C drawing, after interviewing the school teacher we
learned that the class had visited the Sao Paulo Zoo just the week before the drawings were
collected and that each children was given an small amount of money so they could buy
snacks and refreshments during the field trip.
It is our suggestion that there should be a pre-data collection interview with the class
teacher in order to gain a deeper understanding on the background of the class. Children
should also be interviewed during drawing collection so they could explain what their
drawings meant and what their motivation was. We advise not to ask directly something like
– is this a supermarket? – because children have a tendency to agree whatever you ask if they
Four brands appeared in both drawings from school A and C: Carrefour, Extra,
McDonalds and C&A. Carrefour and Extra are two of major Brazilian players in supermarket
retailing. They have stores that both upper and low class individuals patronize. C&A can be
found in both because, despite selling middle price clothing, they have a strong presence in
both high end and low end shopping malls across town.
Figure 1. McDonalds’ and Love
Figure 2. McDonalds and pleasure
The example of McDonalds (Figure 1 – low income; Figure 2 – high income) also
shows how the McDonalds brand is very well positioned among children. There is always a
scent of love and pleasure when children represent the golden arches. McDonalds is one of
the fast food companies focused on the kids market that has constructed a retail environment
which is full of rewarding stimulus to children: playground, happy meals and toys, Ronald
McDonald’s, drawing material etc.
Figure 3. Low income - Shopping Tatuape
Figure 4. High income - Shopping Iguatemi
Children demonstrate having acquired consumer knowledge as they represent the
shopping centers with it richness of stores, products and happiness. Children display that the
shopping center is a place to shop, play and eat. Figures 3 and 4 present Shopping Tatuape,
which is located in a C class neighborhood and Shopping Iguatemi, which is one of the most
exclusive shopping in Brazil, with Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna and Tiffany stores.
Figure 5. High income – Prada
Figure 6. Low income – 25 de Marco
As we can see in Figures 5 and 6, girls are very fond of clothing, either when buying
exclusive Prada outfits, or popular unbranded products at the 25 de Marco street, which is the
biggest region for low income commerce in Latin America and receives around 450.000
people daily, reaching 1 million around Christmas (Moras, Sastre, & Serralvo, 2008).
Figure 7 presents a drawing with children and potentially the mother at French
supermarket chain Carrefour. As before, characters in the drawing are happily buying
products. Their shopping carts are partially filled with products, and the shelves are packed
with product and their prices.
Figure 7. Low income – Price at Carrefour
Figure 8. Buyer with money at Extra
Products presented are noodles, coffee, rice, snacks, sugar, “medicine for flys that
bite”, garlic and salt. Prices are 20 to 30% above or below regular prices. Figure 8 presents
one of the only two drawings that depicted money and prices among the high income
drawings from School A. Among all drawings, both from School A and C, there were only
four references to prices and money.
5. General discussion, limitations and suggestions for future research
It has been widely proposed that children have been submitted to as overwhelming
amount of advertising, which will ultimately result in materialistic children. With this in
mind, the researchers responsible for this project undertook an effort to gain a deeper
understanding of what children think about shopping. A data collection of drawings with
children from a private and a public school brought some insights to the understanding of
what is on the children’s mind.
First of all, children usually depict buying scenes that are familiar to them; therefore
high income children drew luxury brands such as Prada; low income children drew more
popular brands and commercial zones, such as Bras and 25 de Marco. Some children, from
the low income group (school C), drew a zoo. This happened because they had recently made
a trip to the Sao Paulo Zoo, and therefore had this event very fresh in their memory.
Both groups also represented on their drawings the main supermarket chains of
Brazil, Carrefour and Extra. Interestingly, the Wal-Mart brand didn’t appear in the drawings
because the presence of Wal-Mart in Brazil is still very recent. The presence of supermarket
brands in the drawings is somehow surprising, as one would expect super heroes or toy
brands to be depicted. Supermarkets carry a large number of products that are desired by
children, such as toys, candy, soft drinks, dvd’s etc.
Two of the three components of materialism as conceptualized by Richins & Dawson
(1992), happiness (possessions are connected to the well-being and satisfaction with life) and
success (more possessions as one is more successful), are depicted in the drawings. Children
represented themselves and others with much happiness when buying. Figure 6 and 7 present
drawing from low income children, that drew themselves surrounded by products (Figure 6)
and with shopping cart full (Figure 7). This denotes the importance of more possessions for
Drawing only show what children relate to going shopping. It is clear that the act of
shopping is strongly connected to pleasure, but it is not possible to say why they have this
perception. Further research efforts could focus on this aspect of children socialization in
order to capture the origin of this phenomenon. Further studies should pursue a more
comprehensive data collection, with a higher number of children, and with closer supervision.
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