- While manufacturers have been at the center of debates regarding marketing junk food to children, companies could apply the same marketing strategies to steer kids toward vegetables, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
- Participating schools featured cartoon characters called the "Super Sproutz" who were displayed on a vinyl banner above the cafeteria's salad bar, featured in short videos, or both. Results varied, but over the course of four weeks, the number of students who selected vegetables from school salad bars doubled or tripled.
- Cartoon characters have long been a part of marketing targeted at children for products ranging from cereal and cookies to candy and salty snacks.
The study showed that using the videos alone had no impact on students' choices, but combining banners and videos produced the strongest changes, followed by banners alone. This suggests that video advertising may not be the best tactic for manufacturers trying to entice children to choose healthier products. Instead, a video ad, such as on social media or TV, that corresponds with packaging could be a better way to influence children's healthy food choices.
Manufacturers have been making changes to ingredients to align products with the better-for-you foods movement. While parents may respond favorably to these changes, children may not pay attention, not care, or even be put off by changes made to their favorite products, which could change the product's flavor, texture, or appearance. Manufacturers can balance out the health messages on packaging, which appeal to parents, with the same marketing techniques used successfully for other products, which appeal to kids, for maximum purchase potential.
In general, parents aren't necessarily put off by manufacturers' marketing campaigns for children—it's the foods those campaigns are promoting. Manufacturers already have the formula down and have successfully attracted children to their brands with memorable cartoon characters and celebrity endorsers, such as athletes and musicians. They've been so successful that in 2011, the U.S. government proposed guidelines to restrict the marketing of certain foods to children.
The industry has already taken its own measures to self-regulate marketing targeted at children. In 2006, 10 companies formed the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, and more have joined since. Earlier this year, a partnership among six confectionery companies created the Children's Confection Advertising Initiative.
In addition to self-regulation, pivoting existing marketing strategies to feature a brand's healthier products is another way for manufacturers to improve their reputation among parents while boosting sales of better-for-you products.