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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McDonald's: A testament to the power of brand

To little kids, carrot sticks, milk, and apple juice physically taste better when they're presented in a McDonald's wrapper (http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/08/06/mcdonalds.preschoolers.ap/index.html.) Those are the stunning findings of a recent study which found that the more TV sets children have in their home, the more likely they are to find McDonald's branded food to taste better than unmarked packages. (An interesting exception is hamburgers, where the preference was not "statistically clear cut.")

The media are all over this study, for multiple reasons:

1. It shows how powerful brands are (!)
2. It shows how vulnerable low-income kids are to TV advertising (it was a study of 63 low-income children ages 3 to 5)
3. It points up the problem of obesity in America and points a finger at fast-food companies for causing it

CNN quotes Dr. Victor Strasburger, an author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children:
"Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about -- to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product."
And? What about it? Kids get hungry and they want good food. Of course they learn to distinguish between what tastes good and what doesn't--they learn to trust certain brand names to provide them basic sustenance. It is up to their parents to steer them away from the junk, not up to companies to stop marketing to them.
I don't know why McDonald's is apologizing all over the place for marketing its food to kids (large and small)...("This is an important subject and McDonald's has been actively addressing it for quite some time," company spokesman Walt Riker told CNN. "We've always wanted to be part of the solution and we are providing solutions.")

The company should instead be taking credit. They are geniuses at making food appealing, and they're serving healthy food these days as well. If people choose to gorge (or to let their kids gorge), that is their problem.