Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Study: McDonald's Branding Has Strong Power Over Young Minds

Dr. Thomas Robinson says the cultural influence of McDonald's unmatched

If anyone ever doubted the enormous impact of the marketing blitz undertaken by the world's most famous fast food restaurant on the most vulnerable members of our society--CHILDREN--then I would simply refer you to a brand new study that should scare the living daylights out of anyone who cares about the subject of health. This is just plain frightening if you ask me.

Lead researcher Dr. Thomas N. Robinson, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and his fellow researchers wanted to examine the "effects of cumulative, real-world marketing and brand exposures" on toddlers to see what effect, if any, consumer branding would have on their food preferences.

A total of 63 children between the ages of 3 and 5 from low-income families from the from government assistance Head Start program in San Mateo County, CA were give five pairs of identical foods and beverages--hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, milk or juice, and carrots--that were packaged in wrappers stating they were from McDonald's and another in plain packaging. Each of the study participants were asked to tell the researchers if the foods tasted the same or if they had a preference for one over the other.

The stunning results? The children almost universally preferred the food and said it tasted better when it was wrapped in McDonald's packaging than the plain packaging. Remember, IT WAS EXACTLY THE SAME FOOD!

We've seen what they think is "healthy" in recent marketing efforts and it's a far cry from what it could be. While the new R Gym concept at McDonald's to encourage exercise is a pretty good start, there seriously needs to be a better effort on their part to get the menu choices even healthier for those precious little ones who are the future.

It's amazing how you just call something McBLANK and the kids go hog wild for it like it's the best thing they've ever tasted. That's powerful and absolutely blows my mind. Years upon years of indoctrination through unrelenting marketing by McDonald's has given them such a branding foothold on the competition. Nobody else in the restaurant industry even comes close.

Find out more about the results of this fascinating study and what it means to those of us who are advocates for healthy living by clicking here.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Blogger LCT Cathy said...

It's so sad that the worst food for you is also the cheapest. Unfortunately, healthy, whole, REAL food just costs more money.

I read somewhere (wish I could cite the source) that for the first time in the history of the world, poor people are fatter than rich.

8/08/2007 12:32 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

You are so right, Cathy! It's sad, but true.

I don't have the statistic about poor people being fatter than rich, but I did find from 1998 that discussed this issue.

8/08/2007 11:13 AM  
Blogger Pot Kettle Black said...


Imagine this. Branding has an effect. Do you think Coke and Pepsi spend upwards of a billion dollars a piece, each year, to support their brands without believing that the brand has a value? There's a clear reason why people buy coke/pepsi vs. all other brands. There's a reason why LC people buy Royal Crown's diet sodas (Diet Rite) vs. a generic with the same properties. And I will tell you, at least with Coke/Pepsi v. all comers, it's not a matter of taste (although people prefer Pepsi to Coke in a blind sip test and Coke to Pepsi in a blind home use test, I don't think anyone has formally studied Coke or Pepsi vs. store brand). I assure you it isn't some weird religion that motivates Coke & Pepsi to blow over $2B on telling you about Coke & Pepsi.

Marketing works. Taste is subjective. The wrapper matters. The smell matters. The look matters. The ambiance matters. It all affects taste.

Now, if they had put the McD's food in brightly colored, attractive, non-McD wrappers, we might have a worthwhile study, but the big question is, so what?

McD is a company. They are in business to make money. They have a responsibility to be honest with consumers so they can make informed decisions about their products. They don't have a responsibility to make great food or to package it in a way that won't enhance the enjoyment of it. I think the folks who are getting terribly upset over Children preferring the taste of McDonald's wrapped food over generic wrapped food are talking about some corporate social responsibility issue, but in a very circumspect way. The real issue with McDonald's is the dividing line between personal responsibility and corporate social responsibility. If you eat McDonald's food, is it there fault for making a product and marketing it effectively, or is it your fault for falling for it, or copping out on cooking, or a better restaurant, or being a real parent?

Don't get me wrong. McDonald's has some social responsibility. They shouldn't use transfats or other, more toxic substances. They should make every effort to make their operation sustainable, minimize their environmental footprint, deal fair and square with their supply chain, and be honest with their customers. But you cannot really be against marketing, not in a free, capitalistic society. Not as republicans, democrats, libertarians or any other stripe of politics that believes in the marketplace economy.

8/08/2007 12:05 PM  
Blogger LCT Cathy said...

Jimmy, thanks for the article link. He had some good angles that he covered.

Interesting thing is that the writer's approach was towards traditional (FDA Food Pyramid) methods of eating in stating that the "unhealthy" foods were junk food and meat. While I would agree that junk food was unhealthy, I'm sure you would agree with me that meat is not. When I was first married and struggling financially, I cooked highly refined carb-laden food that would stretch and used minimal amounts of meat. We could never afford fish or too many vegetables and fresh fruit.

We have a culture today of everything needing to be done yesterday/drive-thru/in an hour, etc. and the cheap fast food manufacturers are reaping the benefits of it. What is the liklihood that someone who has very little money and is a product of this culture would spend more money at the store purchasing healthy, whole and real foods that they in turn have to go home and prepare. Not likely when they can go to a "restaurant" like McDonalds and purchase three double cheeseburgers and a fry for $3.96 + tax.

That being said, these business' have every right to be there selling their slop but WE have the responsibility to educate ourselves and our children on falling into the trap. However, because of the culture that we live in, that job is even harder than ever before. A population content with headlines and soundbites will rarely dig deeper.

8/08/2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I agree these business are not the ones to blame--only ourselves. We need to stop passing the buck of responsibility and start taking the appropriate steps to grab back control of our own health.

8/08/2007 2:59 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home