Jennifer Carole makes a living by tracking trends and patterns among youth culture. So her words have extra weight when she takes Disney to task for the way they’re handling marketing to tweens.
Last week I sat through three different sessions at the Ypulse National Mashup (a great event) where I heard from three different representatives from Disney: one from Disney Interactive, one from Disney Mobile and one from Disney Music. The Disney Music presentation was near the end of the conference and I left his talk feeling incredibly provoked.
What I found interesting about all three presenters is that they didn’t mention parents. Actually, Stephen Saiz, manager of consumer insight and strategy of the Walt Disney Internet Group’s North American mobile division did mention parents but it was in a less than flattering way. This CNET article quotes Saiz as saying, “Teens are pushing their parents to go on mobile because they don’t really want to communicate with them directly.” I am not sure about the conclusion he’s drawing from his research but I am sure it was the only time I heard the Disney folks talk about parents.
Jennifer concludes that Disney is deliberately trying to keep parents out of the loop. The Walt Disney Company is playing with fire if it thinks it can keep parents out of the loop forever. For the generation whose kids are entering elementary school right now are much more savvy about new technology than their parents were.
Disney maybe empowering the kids to make decisions, but technology will be empowering the parents just as rapidly. I’d rather this be a mutually beneficial relationship, instead of one of snooping. Disney has the power to make that happen by building social networks and other tools where parents and children cooperate and make mutual decisions. Encouraging kids to go behind their parents backs, not so good.