Teens: Branding for Beginners

Chanel Vamp Lip Gloss, Jimmy Choo heels, Gauloises cigarettes, Absolut vodka: they're the kind of brand-name products you'd expect to find in a glossy magazine. But they're popping up with astounding frequency in novels aimed at teen girls, according to a new study by Naomi Johnson, a communications studies professor at Virginia's Longwood University. Johnson looked at six best-selling novels from the "Gossip Girl," "A-List" and "Clique" series, and found that brand names appeared an average of more than once per page: 1,553 references in all. Among them were 65 allusions to brand-name alcohols, cigarettes or prescription drugs. The brand names helped drive plotlines and define characters, says Johnson, who also noticed a degree of snobbery at work: almost all 22 references to Keds served to label the girl wearing them a loser. Other lessons: don't wear Target bikinis; do wear Chanel. (A spokesperson for Alloy Entertainment, a marketing-firm subsidiary that holds the copyright for each line of books, told NEWSWEEK that it does not accept payment for product placement in any of its titles.) "The Judy Blume books I read as a kid were about life lessons and defining yourself," says Johnson. "The life lesson here is that you can buy your identity."

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