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Visual-commercial discourses of infants in direct marketing sent to first-time parents

Johanna Sjöberg (Department of Thematic Studies - Child Studies, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 15 June 2015




The purpose of the paper is to analyze what notions of infants parents are visually met through addressed direct marketing. Questions discussed are: How are infants visually constructed as a category? and How are they argued to be in need of consumption?


Unsolicited direct marketing sent to three Swedish first-time parents during their child’s first year has been collected and analyzed. Using critical visual discourse analysis, attention is paid to recurring visual patterns and contradictions in how infants are visualized and described at the intersection of materiality, image and text.


The analysis shows three dominant visual commercial discourses of infants, here called “the angel”, “the adventurer” and “the transformer”. These discourses are articulated in such a way and with such a strong claim to truth that it appears as if it is not the marketer that is arguing for consumption, but that it is the infant’s character that demands and drives parents toward consumption.

Social implications

As the visualizations of the age category infants, as well as of parents, are shown to be very uniform and that the marketing play on especially mothers’ fear of not providing the optimal conditions for the child, the study highlights the necessity of a critical dialogue between marketers, producers, parents and other actors in the child consumer business about their respective responsibilities and needs.


The youngest children are practically invisible in childhood studies as well as in the field of consumer culture. The paper thus contributes to those fields and to the study of visualization of children.



Sjöberg, J. (2015), "Visual-commercial discourses of infants in direct marketing sent to first-time parents", Young Consumers, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 107-140.



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