News Analysis: Brushing Up on Parenting Skills

Article excerpt

As food brands shift their focus away from children, they must ensure the resultant strategy is robust.

After years of ignoring parents in favour of their children, brands, particularly in the food sector, have found that legislation and growing opposition to advertising to the latter means they are being forced to open a dialogue with mothers and fathers.

In a shift of strategy, Burger King has launched its first campaign to explicitly target mothers, while McDonald's is overhauling its Happy Meal toys to push an educational message among parents (Marketing, 2 July).

Coca-Cola, too, has recognised the need to develop a relationship with mothers and has shifted its focus to promote healthy, active lifestyles, as its products have been removed from schools and TV ads aimed at children curtailed.

However, such strategies are not without pitfalls. While Nestle's latest campaign for Milkybar still features its brand icon the Milkybar Kid, the brand has been forced to dispense with its explicit child-focused ads in favour of a more gentle approach. The result is a rather fey-looking 'Kid' riding through a peaceful woodland scene, which seems to have had little positive impact on its declining share of the chocolate market.

Craig Mawdsley, joint head of planning at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, warns that those brands that do shift strategy toward parents must be certain they have nothing to hide as they will be under far greater scrutiny. 'I think it adds an extra dimension - you need to take the essence of the brand, but serve it up with greater depth.' According to Mawdsley, this is something his agency has done for Walkers by retaining Gary Lineker as the brand spokesman, but adapting the message away from children toward a healthier focus on the lower fat and salt content of its products.

'The message that you give parents is the flipside of the one that you have been telling their children. …

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