Companies across the board often turn to media characters to market their products. Why? Because it’s an effective, proven way to promote their products in order to maximize sales. Popular media characters used in brand marketing can connect manufacturers with children and influence a child’s product preferences.
Kids are quick to develop emotional bonds even with fictional characters they see on television or on their favorite cereal box. According to an issue brief from Healthy Eating Research, children treat brand and media characters as if they were their own personal friends, and through these relationships, brands are able to build a consumer base. Researchers reviewed eleven different studies on how media characters can influence a child’s diet and found that brands that use well-known characters have a distinct advantage over those that don’t.
While many products using brand mascots and popular characters from visual culture tend to be high in calories and poor in nutrition, some companies are now using character marketing to effectively increase kids’ consumption of fruits and vegetables. Super Sprowtz, a non-profit company that educates children through a story-driven nutrition program, created a group of cartoon vegetable characters in an attempt to make vegetables “cool”, so as to entice children to consume the “coolness”–and it worked.
Behavioral economist David Just from Cornell University tested the effectiveness of the Super Sprowtz characters in elementary schools. He found that when a Super Sprowtz banner was placed in the cafeteria at the salad bar, students took twice as many vegetables as those kids in schools without banners.
Now the Produce Marketing Association (PMA)and the Partnership for a Healthier America have joined forces with Sesame Workshop to build and promote the eat brighter! movement, which allows companies to use the familiar, iconic Sesame Street characters in their marketing plans royalty-free. The idea is to encourage young children ages two to five to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. The movement is enjoying great success, with suppliers reporting an average of 5.3 percent increase in year-over-year sales in 2015.
The success of character marketing hinges not only on the ability of children to relate to brand characters, but also on the ability of companies to use brand mascots and characters in a way that suggests they care about what children consume. Using character marketing places control in the hands of companies who have a responsibility to bring quality foods to customers and to help children begin to make healthy nutritional choices early on. If these companies can get kids and their families to connect with their brands through characters, they can bring in higher sales while simultaneously, and more importantly, creating loyal customers and healthy consumers .