Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wish Lists as Market Research

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is currently launching a campaign against Wal-Mart for encouraging kids to "nag" their parents electronically for toys. At issue is Wal-Mart's Toyland site, which includes a feature that enables kids to first create a Christmas wish list, and then enter their parents' email address so that the site can send it to them. While electronic, commercially-mediated nagging does represent a new low even for Wal-Mart, the very concept of the "wish list" recalls similar initiatives in the past, put forth by corporations and market researchers in order to find out what was "hot" among an otherwise hard to research demographic, to better enable retailers to "prepare" for a new season of Christmas shopping. Using kids' Christmas wish lists as market research goes back several decades, but when the practice is placed within a digital context it becomes much more meaningful and efficient. Depending on the user base of the Wal-Mart site, the wish list feature could give the company insight into the secret hopes and desires of hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of kids - as individual wish lists are aggregated and made sense of through data mining technologies and statistical analysis.

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