Marketers bank of the influence that brands and labels have on the buying habits of adults. New studies, however, show that this endorsement effect actually carries over to children. Not only does a favorite cartoon character make a child bother mom or dad to buy the product, but in taste tests, the presence of the familiar face actually makes the kids like the food more.
This study was performed by the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania with Matthew Lapierre at the helm. Using the same breakfast cereal, the study organizers embellished each box with different images. On some boxes, familiar penguins that appeared in the popular kids’ flick “Happy Feet” graced the packaging. The other cereal boxes showed only a picture of the product. In addition, the names of the product were altered, indicating either a healthy or a sugar-laden cereal. In the end, kids said the food with the character an appealing name actually tasted better than the more generic labeling.
While marketing strategies can be hard for parents to deal with, there is also good that can come from this study. Researchers affiliated with Sesame Street had previously demonstrated that adding Sesame characters to healthy foods like vegetables increases their appeal, so it’s not all bad news.