Brands affect perceptions of preschoolers

A recently published study on brand influence has reported that preschool children perceive carrots to taste better when they come out of a McDonald’s bag, even though the company doesn’t sell carrots.

The study shows that even very young children have internalised advertising and that it significantly affects their perception of the outside world.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the strength of the effect was found to correlate with the number of TVs present in the child’s house.

The research team was led by Prof Thomas Robinson and was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The team tested 63 three to five year-olds and asked them to taste a number of foods. One sample of the food was presented in McDonald’s packaging, another sample was presented in a similar plain paper bag.

These included foods genuinely from McDonald’s and others that the company don’t sell (milk, apple juice and carrots).

Children consistently said the food from the McDonald’s packaging actually tasted better, regardless of whether it was actually from the company, or whether the company even had it on their menus.

The researchers then looked at what might be linked to the strength of this effect, and found that how often the child eats at the fast food chain was a significant factor.

However, another significant predictor was how many televisions the family had in their home, suggesting that exposure to advertising itself might play a part.

Link to full-text of scientific paper.
Link to write-up and ’60 sec podcast’ from SciAm.

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