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Marketing Children's Toys Through Gender Socialization: My experience with three stores in New York City

Updated on July 3, 2017

Introduction

In general perspective, socialization is a term that is used in reference to a process of acquiring and learning certain beliefs, personality attitudes, value systems, and behavioral norms of a given culture. The socialization process and experiences of individuals is reflected in the way they interact with their immediate environment and how they perceive themselves in their immediate environment. Gender socialization is one of the socialization processes whereby; girls and boys are able to learn the aspect of being masculine or feminine in their respective societies. Consumer items are the major ways in which gender is expressed and experienced. Boys and girls get to learn about gender right from early ages through consumer items such as clothes, toys, furniture and so on which are exposed to them by either their parents or marketers. This paper presents a report on a visit of three stores dealing with child toys and how the toys and processes taking place at each store are gendered and socialized. The three stores visited are the LEGO store in New York.

The Lego Store

The Lego store is located within the Flatiron District of NYK. The actual situation of the store is on the 200 5th Avenue between the 23rd and 24th Streets of the city. I visited the store on a Monday date 11th July 2016 after seeking permission from the store management to conduct a short academic tour on the premise. On that particular day, the store was relatively busy with more than six cashiers being busy attending to customers. There were a number of men, women and children who were looking around for items of their choice. Moreover, these items were arranged strategically in terms of color, size, type and category. All the customers I encountered on this premise were all white whereby children and particularly boys were the majority followed by women. Most of the children were between the age of 5-12 years. A small number of customers comprised of men.

Kaledeiscope Store

This store can be found in 8722 3rd Ave Brooklyn, New York City. I visited this store on Saturday 16th July between 11 to 1pm. This store was full of activities with children being the majority of those I encountered. Majority of children were aged between 3 to 15 years and this was confirmed by the wide range of items that suited children of these categories. About eight staff can be seen directing customers and assisting them to choose items of their desire. Moreover, these staff is indeed friendly and can be seen advising customers on what items are good for boys and those ideal for girls. There is also a very big space where children are seen playing with their toys while being assisted by their parents/guardians. Contrary to Lego store, there were almost an equal number of boys and girls at this premise though women still constituted the largest group. Toys and children items were arranged in nice shelves, where they could be identified easily by those looking for particular items and also in an appealing manner. They were also arranged in a mix and match manner which also contributed to the appeal. I was particularly fascinated with the arrangement of the goods, reception accorded to customers, and the concern of the staff to customers. With this kind of arrangement and treatment, anyone could feel nice and comfortable being in this place.

Miracle Mile Toys

From New York City, I went straight to Los Angeles and entered into Miracle Mile Toys, a famous children toy and games center in the city. The visiting day was on Monday 18th July 2016, between 3 pm to 5pm. I was fascinated with wide range of child toys including dolls, balls, charts and other play items. The arrangement was largely based on category and no any specified pattern. For instance, elephant toys were placed together while monkey ones were placed together. What was interesting was that the operators seemed not to be concerned on color as these were put randomly as long as they fitted a given category. Another interesting aspect was that contrary to the two stores I had visited earlier, this one had a relatively fewer customers constituting of children, women and a few men who were at the place. Moreover, majority of the toys were odds unlike the other stores which harbored a variety of them for the client to choose from. This particular store had also very few workers and there was no one to direct the clients or give them assistance which they needed. In my view, the poor arrangement of the dolls and other items, storage of items of a particular category, rather than a variety of them and the few staff at the premise was an impediment the general marketing aspect of this firm.

Analysis

Generally, boys and girls tend to like items of particular color. For instance, boys tend to like items of blue color while girls tend to like items of pick color. This may help to explain why some stores arrange toy items in terms of color. This aspect is conscious among parents and staff of the particular stores since they know which colors will be ideal for their boys and which ones will be ideal for boys. Similarly, the store workers have also mastered this aspect and they could be seen “correcting” parents who seem to select items which are not of desirable color. In the same way, there are items which are specifically meant for boys while others are particularly for boys. For instance, most “vehicle”, bicycles, balls toys are meant for boys while baby dolls are meant for girls. Ferrante (2015) explains the society generally expects boys and girls to behave or perceive differently. Moreover, girls and boys are commonly socialized differently, thus explaining why there are different toys for boys and those for girls. For example, since girls are expected to be mothers, they will be exposed to such aspects as child rearing, cooking, washing et cetera and their toys will be geared towards such aspects. While boys are raised towards conforming to a male gender role such as playing football, girls are raised to confirm to a gender role. Toy stores are cognizant of this fact and this explains why they have designed and stored toys and games items of different categories, color and styles. For instance, most stores place boy’s items on particular shelves while girl’s items are stored at specific places. This is to make it easy for the guardians to select items of their choice.

Ferrante (2015) goes on to pin point that almost every culture has set up guidelines on what is good for females and males. Consequently, guardians socialize children in gendered ways without necessarily following this path. A good example is the American society which has socialized the blue color for boys while pink color for girls. Furthermore, parents also dress girls and boys in a different way according to what they regard as proper for the sexes. Interestingly, this gender role is unconsciously reinforced even for parents who are not so concerned about gendered parenting.

Back to the toy stores, the type/category of stores which parents select for their children are in most cases geared towards socializing them into “proper” gender roles. The dolls designed for girls are meant to prepare them into motherly role. Further, girls are given dolls to enable them learn how to be nurturing, caring for others. On the other hand, the dolls for boys are action intended owing to the boy’s aggressive tendencies.

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