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25 November 2011

Kids Love Cartoon Characters—They Sell Fruit as Well as Candy

Keywords: advertising, characters, fruit, health, parents, persuasion, Dora the Explorer, Western Europe, brand characters, consumer behavior, experiment, marketing, persuasive tactics, preschoolers, product packaging, social marketing, social policy, vegetables,

Advertising healthy foods can help kids eat better, a study in the Journal of Health Communication shows. As concerns about kid’s bad eating habits grow, this study shows that cartoon characters on product packaging can increase the appeal of fruit. When a fruit snack package contains a character, children even like the fruit just as much as candy. Advertising healthy foods can help kids eat better. Interestingly, an unknown character was just as good at advertising as more popular cartoon characters.

Take aways

  • Brand characters can advertise healthy foods to kids just like junk food. Kids are more likely to eat healthy food that is well advertised with cartoon characters.
  • Healthy food looks better in more attractive packaging and can make kids more likely to eat them.
  • Unknown characters can be just as good at advertising as expensive, licensed cartoon characters, but only when they relate to the product (e.g., monkey-banana, rabbit-carrot).

Study information

  • The question?

    Can cartoon characters increase the appeal of fruit among young children?
  • Who?

    216 4- to 6-year-olds
  • Where?

    Amsterdam vicinity, The Netherlands
  • How?

    Researchers showed children packaging for either chopped banana (a healthy snack) or banana candy (an unhealthy snack). The packages showed a popular cartoon character (Dora the Explorer or Spongebob Squarepants), a new cartoon character (a monkey) or no character at all. The children said how much they liked each snack and whether they would ask their parents for it.

Facts and findings

  • With no cartoon character on the packaging, kids preferred candy to bananas.
  • With a popular cartoon character on the packaging, kids liked the banana snack just as much as the candy.
  • With a new cartoon monkey, children still liked the banana snack just as much as the candy.
  • Extra fact: In a follow-up study, researchers discovered that characters that related to the snack (like monkeys and bananas) were more persuasive than characters that did not relate (like rabbits and bananas).