It's book review time again. Our focus this month: visits to alien territories. The first book is a travel guide with all sorts of information on far-flung lands. The other two involve trips to a terrain that some researchers would consider equally foreign: the kids market.

As this is our international research issue, I requested a review copy of the World Travel Guide from Hellgate Press. The book contains two-page reports on every country in the world (at least as far as I can tell), from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Each entry includes a small map, some vital statistics (population, land area, per capita GDP, etc.), a short write-up describing the country's history, a list of useful Web sites, and important facts for travelers.

Any marketing research-related travel you do is likely going to land you in one of the more developed regions of the world (in other words, you probably won't be fielding a study on the archipelago of Vanuatu any time soon), but as the economy - and by necessity, marketing research globalizes, knowledge of the countries of the world is a valuable resource. This quick-reference book is a good place to start the learning process.


The Kids Market: Myths and Realities aims to demystify the job of marketing to kids. Author James McNeal explores the truth behind 26 myths about marketing to kids in the 4-12 age range, in hopes of helping readers avoid the mistakes made by marketers who are also parents - whom he refers to as "marents" - who feel that since they have kids, they know how to sell to them.
"Children are difficult to understand, no matter who you are and what experience you have," he writes. "But it is the ultimate in marketing folly to select children as a market target and not have the best understanding possible. After all, marketing is charged with the satisfaction of consumers, a more challenging task when it comes to children, who are unable to make the adjustments to marketing efforts adults routinely make. It's harder for children to discount puffery in advertising, reseal products sold in difficult
packages, or return unsatisfactory products for refund or exchange. Marketers who intend to be in the marketing-to-kids business need to try harder, and they need to hire experienced help."

McNeal clearly has an affinity for and understanding of kids. A professor of marketing at Texas A&M University, where he teaches courses in marketing and consumer behavior, his basic approach is "Don't sell kids short" and "Don't believe everything you hear about kids as consumers." He backs his beliefs with pertinent statistics and findings from his own research as well as that of others.

Some sample myths:

  • If a kid has money, he'll spend it before it burns a hole in his pocket.
  • Children change brands often and show little brand loyalty.
  • Satisfy the kids and you satisfy the parents.

I found particularly interesting the chapter which details the stages of consumer behavior development. If you want to earn a customer for life, why not start right after they're born? Of course, the chapter on researching kids also caught my eye. Here McNeal comments on some research mistakes and later offers techniques that work best with kids.

McNeal cites three "not enoughs" as the cause of kids market research problems: not enough kids market research is done (either because marketers believe kids aren't an important market, they're easy to understand without research, and/or kids only want to buy candy and toys); not enough research is done by qualified researchers (for example, having focus groups moderated by someone who feels comfortable with kids, but who has no moderating experience); and not enough of the right kind of research is done (focus groups shouldn't be the only kind of kids market research you do).

Revisiting the world of teens

Our final selection is a new edition of Wise Up to Teens, which I first reviewed in 1996. Author Peter Zollo, president of Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), Northbrook, Ill., has updated his solid, comprehensive look at the lives of to day's teens using information from TRU's semi-annual syndicated Teenage Marketing & Lifestyle Study. Zollo relies on the research data and his 15 years of experience researching teens to give readers a thorough understanding of what teens think, what they do, what they buy, and how marketers should and shouldn't try to reach them. If you missed it the first ti me around, pick up a copy and learn more about the aliens who walk among us.
World Travel Guide ($19.95, 430 pages) by Barry Mowell, is published by Hellgate Press/PSI Research, Grants Pass, Ore. For more information call 800-228-2275 or visit

The Kids Market: Myths and Realities ($54.95, 272 pages) by James McNeal, is published by Paramount Market Publishing, Inc., ithaca, N.Y. For more information call 607-275-8100 or visit

Wise Up to Teens - Insights into Marketing and Advertising to Teenagers ($42.00, 346 pages) by Peter Zollo, is published by New Strategist Publications, Ithaca, N.Y. For more information call 607-273-0913 or visit