Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ba-da-ba-ba-baaaaaaaaaaa... I'm lovin it!

Every morning I start my day by reading media clippings. When I worked in income tax, this wasn't too exciting, because journalists were highly consumed with the stories about how the CRA ripped the rug out from under some low-income family, while letting a member of high society get away with tax murder (not always truthful, but nonetheless... the media loved these stories). It was pretty standard... and at times boring from a communication's lens. However, since arriving in the health field, the media clips are far more interesting, and I always seem to be amazed at the research and studies that are done in this field.

Yesterday's clippings included the headline 'Wee ones' taste buds easily fooled by McPackaging'. The article reports on a study done by a Standford University researcher, who studied the choices of 63 low-income children, ranging in ages from 3 to 5.

As the article stated 'The study included three McDonald's menu items - hamburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries - and store-bought milk or juice and carrots. Children got two identical samples of each food on a tray, one in McDonald's wrappers or cups and the other in plain, unmarked packaging. The kids were asked if they tasted the same or if one was better.

McDonald's-labelled samples were the clear favourites. French fries were the biggest winner; almost 77 per cent said the labelled fries tasted best, while only 13 per cent preferred the others.

Fifty-four per cent preferred McDonald's-wrapped carrots versus 23 per cent who liked the plain-wrapped sample.'

As a child development specialist stated 'you see a McDonald's label and kids start salivating'.

I can't say I find this research surprising... I myself had a craving for McDonald's on the weekend only after seeing a McDonald's bag on the side of the road on a late night drive home. My headlights flashed by it, and all of sudden I was on the back roads to Casselman to get me some Chicken McNuggets. Brutal, I tell you.

However, I do have to commend Mickey D's for their advertising campaigns in recent years. If kids or adults are salivating at the simple spotting of the golden arches, then the fast-food chain must be ecstatic.

For me, the entire "Ba-da-ba-ba-baaaaaaaaaaa... I'm lovin' it" jingle is one of my favourites. They have managed to incorporate it into all of their marketing attempts, and the entire campaign is something that has definitely instilled product/brand recall within me. I loved that they kicked it off a few year's back with Justin Timberlake singing the jingle, and now it has carried over into the instrumental version... as most people know the words, just by hearing the music. It's down right genius.

Getting back to the study... the article I read in my clippings goes onto talk about how advertising targeting children needs to be limited because children are unaware of the persuasive intent of marketing. To some extent this is true, but in my opinion, parents become a huge factor in controlling how effective marketing targeted towards children can be.

Not being a parent (yet), I don't know how realistic my views are, but I would like to think that parents can decide (in the case of McDonald's) when their children can eat there, what to have while they are there, how often they go there, etc. I know as a child I liked going to McDonald's, but it wasn't something that my parents let me do every time I mentioned it. I think they probably had to argue with me a few times, and put up with a few tantrums every time we drove by the Golden Arches and didn't stop (as McD's was strategically located on the only road exiting Sault Ste. Marie, so we were forced to drive by it), but the point being, my parents were the ones who decided when I could or could not have McDonald's - as a child I had no choice in the matter.

I also don't think that McDonald's has really done anything wrong in their marketing. In fact, in the marketing and communication's world, I would expect this fast-food chain is on a bit of pedestal for the success of their I'm lovin' it campaign.

I find all of this very interesting, but what do you think? Are you surprised that children thought carrots in McDonald's packaging tasted better than non-branded carrots? What do you think about McDonald's marketing in general? Do you think the results of this study is something we should be worried about?