Full disclosure: I have two boxes of Scooby Doo-themed Gogurt in my fridge right now. Actually, make that one-and-a-half boxes. The boys hit those pretty hard today.
According to a new study, it’s quite possible that my boys chose that yogurt because Scooby Doo was on the box. Knowing my boys, I absolutely concur. They’re good, price-conscious shoppers, but given the choice to choose their own yogurt, they choose the Scooby Doo version over tubs of Dannon every time. And if you read the small print on the side of those Gogurt boxes, you know that the wildly colored product inside is not exactly a health food, despite yogurt’s healthy reputation.
My boys’ ability to be swayed by cartoon packaging is, unfortunately, all too common and entirely known to marketers. It’s also having a detrimental effect on our children’s health. According to a Pediatrics study published online June 21, boys and girls ages four to six said food tasted better when it came from a cartoon-enhanced package. Is it any wonder our children are selecting Trix yogurt and SpongeBob Cheez-Its?
Some, including study author Christina Roberto, are drawing parallels between Joe Camel of the past and snack cartoons of the present. I think they’ve got a valid point.
I’ve expressed my concerns about McDonald’s marketing tactics before. And while I’m not entirely sure about the tactics, I don’t disagree with the sentiment behind the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s threat to sue McDonald’s if the fast food purveyor does not remove toys from all future Happy Meals. Let’s face it: If not for those toys, my kids would have chosen Happy Meals far less often. Often, my kids ordered Happy Meals solely because they wanted the toy. And while McDonald’s rightly claims to offer healthy choices, my kids, like most, are well aware that Happy Meals come with fries or apple slices — and that fries are the preferable choice.
Yes, I could put my foot down. I could insist on apple slices. I could boycott McDonald’s and I refuse to buy any food branded with a cartoon character. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s something inherently wrong with a bunch of marketers strategizing ways to attract kids to unhealthy goods.
That’s my opinion. What’s yours?