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Lessons of ‘Snowpeople’ not cool

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I’d love to have a recording of the conversations kids have while on Santa’s lap. More and more, retailers are grooming kids to become consumers. Have some companies become too clever for their own good? This morning, a look at a gimmick from Saks. Here’s commentator Susan Linn.

Susan Linn: One holiday gift I’m not giving the preschoolers in my life is Saks Fifth Avenue’s wintry picture book “Snowpeople.” And it’s not just because I balk at introducing the phrase “frigid fashionistas” into a 4-year-old’s lexicon.

Snowpeople centers around a host of identical carrot-nosed snowmen immersed in an existential crisis about conformity. But never fear: Along with their snowwives, snowchildren, and deep snow pockets, they solve their identity problems through rhinoplasty, dental work, and a Fifth Avenue shopping spree.

One reason for Snowpeople is that Saks is gunning for once and future customers. The goal? Get kids to nag their parents now while inculcating lifetime brand loyalty — warm fuzzy feelings about a brand that morph into adult nostalgia and plenty of spending. That’s why Harley Davidson has a line of onsies, and why Hummers turn up in Happy Meals.

But the book is more than a branding op. Saks’ foray into authorship extends a marketing strategy embodied by the company’s Club Libby Lu — day spas for little girls which specialize in tarting tots up with evening gowns, make-up and jewelry.

The company is hopping on a troubling trend: inculcating the habits of consumption in ever-younger. Popular social networking sites for 5 and 6-year-olds entice them to spend hours and hours online, pretending to shop.

And it’s not just that best-selling toy lines like Barbie and Bratz are designed to get children to purchase more branded stuff. The toys themselves are about shopping. What else can you do with a Barbie Fashion Fever Shopping Boutique Playset, or the Bratz Movie Starz — that’s with a z — Funky Fashion Makeover?

We pass our values on to our children through the stories we tell and the toys we provide. So sorry, Saks: I’m giving Snowpeople the cold shoulder.

Krizner: Susan Linn is associate director of the Media Center at Judge Baker Children’s Center, instructor at psychiatry as well at Harvard Medical School.

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