The Inutility Of An SUV, Targeting Children, Etc.

These are heady days for people who view SUVs as the embodiment of vehicular evil. With gasoline prices having risen even before Katrina hit—and then rising even more—owners of SUVs can no longer conceal the anguish they feel as they pay for a tank of gas. People who are in the market for a vehicle have taken note, to judge by the latest AutoVibes survey from Kelley Blue Book Marketing Research and Harris Interactive. In polling fielded just as the Katrina effect on gas prices was becoming evident, 59 percent of vehicle shoppers said gas prices have “either changed their minds or strongly influenced purchase decisions.” That’s up 13 percentage points from the previous month’s poll. The report quotes a Kelley official on the likely future value of SUVs bought now. Tellingly, he notes that “we are seeing three- and five-year residual values on new SUVs begin to fall.”

Sure, summer-vacation season is over. For those happy souls with time and money to spend, though, this merely means that the fall-vacation season has begun. Given their druthers for a resort vacation during these months, respondents to a Synovate poll would pick such sunny destinations as Hawaii (cited by 27 percent), the Caribbean (23 percent) or Florida (13 percent). The Mid-Atlantic region won a respectable 14 percent of the vote. What appeals to people most about a resort vacation? Echoing Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca, 31 percent said it’s the water, putting that element ahead of “daytime activities” (23 percent), the mountains (15 percent), the food (11 percent), the sun (9 percent), the nightlife (7 percent) and the sand (3 percent).

People in the world’s post-religious precincts view Americans as a bunch of Bible-thumpers. It’s true that Americans are more religious than people elsewhere in the developed world. But there’s nothing simple in the way they put their beliefs into practice. In a survey by The Barna Group, 62 percent of adults categorized themselves as “deeply spiritual.” Even more (88 percent) said they feel “accepted by God.” However, just a slim majority (54 percent) said they “make their moral choices on the basis of specific principles or standards they believe in.” Among this group, three in 10 cited the Bible as the source of these principles. “Overall, then, just one out of every six adults (16 percent) claim they make their moral choices based on the content of the Bible.” More broadly, 35 percent believe moral truth is absolute—”that is, it is not dependent upon the circumstances.” Nearly as many (32 percent) said morality always depends on the particular situation. The rest said they don’t know whether moral truth is absolute or relative.

Marketers know that many people take a dim view of advertising aimed at very young children. They may not realize, though, that a significant number of adults think even not-so-young kids should be left untargeted by sales pitches. The chart below, excerpting a recent survey by Find/SVP, shows a sizable minority of adults objecting to TV spots whose targets are nearly old enough to shave. The survey elicited similar responses when adults were asked whether they believe it’s acceptable to target kids though product placement in children’s television programming.

Teenage boys may be no bargain, but teen girls are even more expensive for their parents. A study by International Communications Research found that girls age 12-17 spend an average of $47 per week, while boys that age spend $45. Moreover, 87 percent of girls get the bulk of their spending money from their parents, vs. 77 percent of boys. Faced with this parental generosity gap, boys are more likely than girls (25 percent vs. 22 percent) to have a regular or part-time job, though the disparity has narrowed in recent years.

Sounds like good news for Doublemint, should the brand continue to tap into the nation’s pool of twins for commercial talent. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics says the twin birth rate hit an all-time high in 2003 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), at 31.5 twin births per 1,000 live births. The national “twinning rate” has increased by two-thirds since 1980.