University of Arizona Study Shows Kids’ Cartoons Affect Adult Preferences
Think you’ve left Ronald McDonald and that “silly rabbit” far behind? You haven’t, say researchers at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and Stony Brook University’s College of Business. When it comes to unhealthy foods, the characters we loved as children continue to have a strong influence on our adult nutritional decisions.
According to the research, a brand bias persists even when we understand marketing practices and know that advertising does not provide complete and accurate information. Although adults have learned to consider things like nutrition and exercise, seeing a favorite childhood marketing character can override good judgment in the cereal aisle.
What does this mean for moms and marketers?
If you’re not already teaching your children about advertising, the study suggests it’s time to start. It’s important for kids to understand that commercials are meant to make us believe things that may not be in our best interest. For tips on helping kids think critically about advertising messages, see Amy Hatch’s article on Learnvest.
For marketers, the research suggests that lovable characters may be able to influence children to adopt healthy lifestyle choices as they age. For example, a cute character may increase the effectiveness of anti-smoking campaigns or help people develop lifelong exercise habits. Although we won’t be able to examine the methodology until the full study is published in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, I suspect the assertion that positive habits can be learned through cartoon characters is spot on. After all, most of us know to “give a hoot, and don’t pollute.”
One thing is certain; the marketing campaigns those mad men created in the 1960s have had a lasting impression on all of us. Now it’s time to use those clever techniques for positive change.