Marketing Genius: The Impact of Educational Claims and Cues on Parents' Reactions to Infant/Toddler DVDs




  • Sarah E. Vaala ( is Martin Fishbein Post-doctoral Research Fellow at University of Pennsylvania and Matthew A. Lapierre ( is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Portions of the research were presented at the annual International Communication Association Conference, in Phoenix, AZ, May 24–28, 2012. The research activities were completed while the authors were doctoral students at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Special thanks to Deborah Linebarger, Kathleen Flanagan, Diana Mutz, and Joseph Cappella for their assistance with this project.


Infant/toddler-directed DVDs have become commonplace in American homes. Most of these DVDs carry direct claims or implied cues of educational benefit, despite complaints from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and others regarding a lack of confirmatory research. Using a DVD package created for this study, this experiment tested the impact of DVD brand name, educational claim specificity, and a personality dimension (i.e., regulatory focus orientation) on parents' perceptions of educational value and purchase intentions. Parents reacted similarly to specific and ambiguous educational statements, but gave higher educational value estimations when the brand name had an educational cue. An interaction suggested that the effect of the claim outcome specificity depended on the claim verb specificity. Parents with a strong focus on pursuing possible rewards (promotion focus) had higher perceptions of educational value and stronger desires to purchase the DVD. Implications for policy and further research are discussed.