Tell me again that branding doesn’t matter

Picture_18 For those of you still on the fence about the power of branding, check out the results of the study just released by Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.  The full study will be released in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The study finds that kids aged 3 to 5, when presented with identical foods — one in a McDonald's wrapper and the other without — overwhelmingly rated the branded one as tasting better.

Hmm.  And if branding affects consumers that dramatically by the age of 3, how do you suppose it works after another 20-30 years of conditioning?

Still wondering about the value of investing in and building a consistent brand?

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12 comments on “Tell me again that branding doesn’t matter

  1. Kevin Dugan says:

    Drew – This is good news, right? It reminds me of a similar incident I had with my two year old recently.

  2. Brad Shorr says:

    Not only is the McDonald’s brand consistent, it’s simple and colorful–qualities that would certainly appeal to children.

  3. Bringing to mind our recent discussion on babies recognizing their own native tongue, McDonald’s has certainly become a “native tongue” for many kids these days… and my 3- and 7-year-olds would certainly concur! They can spot the golden arches from a mile away…

  4. Kevin,

    I do think it’s good news. But good news with a reminder of our responsibility.

    And as I commented on your blog — we only have Charmin in our house because my daughter likes their jingle.

    So if I understand the equation:

    brands influence children who influence parents. Cha ching for McDonalds and Charmin!


  5. Brad,

    An excellent point. The brands that the kids really latch onto, especially at the toddler age, are going to have to visually grab their attention.

    I wonder if that’s why we as adults are still so influenced by pretty versus content?


  6. Steve,

    Wait until your kids get a little older and see SuperSize Me. My former McDonalds junkie won’t even step foot in their store anymore.

    There’s probably an interesting brand study in there somewhere.


  7. Lewis,

    Of course, you are right. And that’s been the reality for a very long time. I think most people poo poo branding because they are ill informed.

    The think branding is a freshing up of their logo or maybe a new tagline.

    We just need to keep chugging away, realizing that some people will never be smart enough to get onto the train!


  8. Mark says:

    My thoughts on this: good news from a branding perspective, perhaps not such good news from a health perspective.

    This is a perfect example of effective branding, though…

  9. Drew,
    I wrote a post about this study from a slightly different angle at, which you might be interested in. Here’s the link:

  10. As a parent, it horrified me to read that little kids picked McDonald’s over the healthy food. As a (former full-time and still occasional) marketing person, I totally understand why they did.

    Looking at the world through parenting glasses, I keep searching for great marketing done to successfully tell the story of healthy choices for kids. I don’t always find it. For example, there are plenty of no-smoking ads aimed at kids but they are based on scaring the kids. How about telling the story a different way?

    Scaring people off of something doesn’t always work. Fear is fear, and sometimes that’s all that the kids get from these messages. I would love to see a healthy kids campaign that made healthy living look fun, inspiring, and energizing. It could be really effective!

  11. Mark — It does make the branding point, doesn’t it?

    Susan — I always love the angles you take on stories like this and you did not disappoint in this case either.


  12. KG,

    You raise some good issues. Let’s look at your smoking example. What are the non scary reasons not to smoke?

    If there were no harmful effects — why wouldn’t someone smoke? Our society tells us that smoking means your a little tough/cool, that smoking means you don’t eat as much so you are thinner, and you get to take more breaks at work!

    So really — what compelling reason, other than the health risks, are there for not smoking?

    Sometimes I think we use scary messages because they are the most compelling. My daughter loved McDonalds until after she saw SuperSize Me. Now, she practically gags when we drive by one. The tactics might be questionable, but the results are exactly the ones you are asking for.


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