Elmo and the Kids Like Apples
Kids love Elmo of Sesame Street. So when the kids see Elmo’s picture on fruits, they love to eat them. That is exactly how apples became popular among some grade school kids at lunch time.
According to a report by Brian Wansink from Ithaca, NY’s Cornell University, there was about a 65 percent increase in the apples taken by 8 to 11-year old children when the apples have an Elmo sticker.
Doing the same technique on cookies did not give a similar result. Perhaps, this is because most kids eat cookies even if they don’t see any Elmo stickers on them.
Branding Healthy Foods Technique
Companies have long been using the tactic of associating their food products with the kids’ favorite characters. You can see this promotional tactic on fast foods and breakfast cereals. Dr. Wansink and his colleagues wanted to find out if the same “branding” technique will work on health foods.
His team did a study in 7 New York schools with 208 eight students aged 8 to 11 participating in the study. For 5 days, the children can choose to get a cookie, an apple or both.
On day 1, all the kids had the option to take unlabeled apples and cookies together with their school lunches. The day’s result served as the baseline for the study. Over 95 percent of the kids ate cookies and just 20 percent got an apple.
The study had the following arrangements in the next 3 days:
On day 2, the kids can choose an unbranded apple or a cookie that has an Elmo sticker
On day 3, the kids can choose an apple with the Elmo sticker or an unbranded cookie
On day 4, the kids can choose an apple with a sticker of an unknown character or cookie without any sticker
On day 5, the kids can choose apples or cookies without stickers again
Varying likeability when branding different products
The researchers observed that the kids did not eat everything they have taken, but ate a portion of it.
Reading the results, there was a 20 percent increase in the number of children taking the apples with the sticker of an unknown character. Then, there was a 65 percent increase in the number of children taking the apples with the Elmo sticker.
The Elmo sticker did not contribute any significant impact on the children’s preference for cookies. 95 percent of the kids would take cookies any day of the week.
Nevertheless, the fact is there is power in using the Elmo brand to influence the kids’ food choices. Just imagine the positive impact there would be when this tactic is used for healthy foods.
If we want our kids to make healthier food choices, wouldn’t it be a good option to use brands and cartoon characters to attract their attention? This study somehow proves this point.
Photo credits: The U.S. Army via Flickr, CC by 2.0