Cartoon branding affects cereal choice
Children prefer cereals that feature popular media characters such as Shrek on the package, regardless of how they taste.
Popular characters are used to help young children remember and identify products. They're a visual cue. To investigate whether media characters on food packaging affect young children's taste assessment of products, researchers made 80 American children, aged around 6 years, to view 1 of 4 professionally created cereal boxes. The children then tasted the "new" cereal. Manipulations included presence or absence of licensed cartoon characters on the box and healthy or sugary cereal name. The children rated the cereal's taste on a 5-point smiley face scale (1 - really do not like; 5 - really like).
It was found that the children who saw a popular media character on the box reported liking the cereal more than those who viewed a box with no character on it. Those who were told the cereal was named Healthy Bits liked the taste more than children who were told it was named Sugar Bits. The presence of a cartoon character was found to be particularly influential on taste assessments when the cereal was named Sugar Bits.
The findings suggest that young children are more likely to enjoy their cereal if it has one of their favourite characters on it. But the good news is that when there is no licensed cartoon character featured on the box, children prefer a cereal whose name suggests healthy eating rather than sugar consumption.
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