San Diego, October 29, 2008
– From SpongeBob to Dora and from Frosted Flakes to Count Chocula, cartoon characters and names that imply a sugary taste are widely used to market cereal to kids. New research shows that these strategies can have a significant affect on children’s assessment of taste.
According to a study presented at the American Public Health Association’s 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, 4- to 6-year-old children who were shown cereal boxes with popular film characters on the front reported higher taste ratings than those given the cereal in a box without the characters.
Surprisingly, the study also founds that kids preferred the cereal with a healthy name (Healthy Bits) over the same cereal with a sugary name (Sugar Bits). In fact, when kids were given the cereal named “Healthy Bits,” there was no difference in their assessment of the cereal relative to the character on the box. However, when the cereal was named "Sugar Bits" and there was no character on the box, children did not respond well to it. It was only in those instances where the cereal had characters on the box that they reported enjoying the taste.
“These results provide evidence that the usage of kid-friendly characters can have a powerful effect on children's assessments of consumer products,” said Sarah E. Vaala, MA, one of the two lead researchers on the study. “Furthermore, these findings have substantial implications for researchers and practitioners concerned with the influence of marketing on children's diets.”
Session 5047.0 - Tricking the taste buds: The influence of spokes-characters on children's assessment of taste
Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 – 9:15 AM
Researchers: Matthew A. Lapierre, MA; Sarah E. Vaala, MA; and Deborah L. Linebarger, PhD
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