Children More Likely To Choose Foods With A Brand Character Interview with:
Lauren McGale
Research Assistant & PhD Student
University of Liverpool What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Food marketing has been highlighted as a key factor which contributes to childhood obesity, and food–packaging as a marketing tool is currently under-researched. Placing licensed-characters, which are those borrowed from movies and TV shows, have previously been shown to affect children’s food choices and taste preferences in favour of the product they appear on, and their use in TV advertising is regulated here in the UK.

However, this is the first study to examine the influence of brand equity characters in this context, which are characters created solely to represent a particular product/brand (for example, Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosties), and these characters are currently exempt from UK TV advertising regulations. As these brand equity characters typically promote foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar, it is crucial that we understand their impact on children’s food choices and preferences.

Our findings were consistent with the existing literature on various types of promotional characters, demonstrating that children displayed a preference for the taste of foods presented with the brand equity character on the packaging, compared to identical foods without the character, and were also more likely to choose these foods as snacks. This was true even when the characters were placed on foods they were not usually associated with. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This research provides evidence that brand equity characters influence children’s food choices and preferences and, therefore, in the context of the current childhood obesity epidemic, their use to promote high fat, salt and sugar foods to children should be restricted. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should aim to address any additional regulatory loopholes which exist, with regards to the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. In addition, it would be useful to develop the existing literature on the use of promotional characters in order to establish whether certain individual differences lead to increased vulnerability to these marketing techniques, and also to establish whether marketing tools such as this could be applied to the promotion of healthier food choices for children. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


The Influence of Brand Equity Characters on Children’s Food Preferences and Choices
Lauren Sophie McGale, MSc, ,Jason Christian Grovenor Halford, PhD,Joanne Alison Harrold, PhD,Emma Jane Boyland, PhD
The Journal of Pediatrics
Available online 26 July 2016


Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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