There was a fair amount of outrage regarding yesterday’s revelation that children aged 3-5 overwhelmingly preferred identical food wrapped in McDonald’s packaging. They not only preferred it, they claimed that it tasted better! This has brought back to the forefront concerns over marketing to children, childhood obesity, and a host of other kid issues.
I am by no means an expert in marketing to children or in McDonald’s marketing tactics, so I’ll offer a different theory. Perhaps we are all preprogrammed to want to associate & define ourselves with brands and McDonald’s is just the first one that little humans find themselves exposed to on a regular basis. As we age, the number of brands to which we have access greatly proliferates and we start fragmenting into more specialized brands communities.
Late in 2006, I wrote about a major let down from a brand with which I had previously found extremely aspirational (St. John Knit). Luckily enough, at age 31, there is no end to my options for where to spend my money and ways to show my brand love. During my pregnancy, shopping for clothes has no longer been a fun thing, so I have turned to shoes. At about 5 months pregnant, I found a fabulous pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes (on sale no less) large enough to fit my expanding paws that created my only real retail rush of the last 9 months. Would this have happened had I found the exact same shoes without the navy label and gorgeous box to go with it? Heck no – it is the brand and the fashionable lifestyle with which I associate Stuart Weitzman that made me feel like I could still live the dream.
Maybe McDonald’s is just the first brand dream with which youngsters are consistently presented. The toys probably don’t hurt either…