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Children's brand symbolism understanding: Links to theory of mind and executive functioning



Against a background of research suggesting that brand symbolism understanding does not develop until 7 to 11 years of age, two studies investigate various aspects of preschool children's brand knowledge. While children's recognition of child-oriented brands is found to be significantly greater than their recognition of brands that are marketed primarily to teens and adults, these young children do recognize brands. In a second study, children's ability to form mental representations of brands is assessed, along with their understanding of brands as social symbols. Cognitive ability, theory of mind, and executive functioning are assessed as predictors of these brand-related outcomes. Theory of mind and executive functioning are both significant predictors of the ability to form mental representations of brands. Children's brand symbolism understanding shows a significant link with theory of mind. It is concluded that 3- to 5-year-olds have emerging knowledge of brands that are relevant in their lives. The impact of individual differences in theory of mind and executive functioning on children's brand knowledge aligns with current theories of child development. Methodological contributions and societal implications are discussed. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.