Magazine article USA TODAY

Does Toucan Sam Affect Your Food Choices?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Does Toucan Sam Affect Your Food Choices?

Article excerpt

What is learned early is learned well and that especially is true when it comes to brand loyalty, research shows. Exposure to ads featuring happy and fun characters in childhood can lead to enduring biases as kids grow up, points out Paul M. Connell, assistant professor at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University's College of Business. From a very young age, children are targeted with advertising messages that emphasize fun and happiness, especially for food products and toys, and they can develop emotional connections to advertising characters, which lead to biases that carry over into their adult lives and often are difficult to change.

In four studies, researchers examined adults' judgments of the healthiness of various products, some of which were advertised heavily in their childhood years. Participants viewed images of characters that would have been widely advertised when they were children. Researchers used advertising characters that represented less healthy food options, such as Toucan Sam of Froot Loops fame.

Study results showed that, when exposed to advertising using characters before age 13, people develop positive long-term feelings towards the characters and the brands' nutrition for years to come. …

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