Marketing Foods to Kids: Using New Avenues: The Importance of Brand Loyalty

By Hunter, Beatrice Trum | Consumers' Research Magazine, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Marketing Foods to Kids: Using New Avenues: The Importance of Brand Loyalty


Hunter, Beatrice Trum, Consumers' Research Magazine


In addition to reaching children through the usual channels used to advertise products, manufacturers find the Internet affords an expanded opportunity.

The Hostess Company has a Web site featuring interactive games for children. Planet Twinkie's primary target audience is children from 7 to 11 years of age. Although the Web site does not sell any Hostess products or provide information about them, it succeeds in imprinting brand name and loyalty in children's minds. According to a company representative: "It's important to establish and enhance a brand personality with children for a couple of reasons. Children influence their parents' buying decisions. If we establish brand loyalty at a young age, kids will remain loyal consumers as adults. Planet Twinkie establishes brand loyalty with children by engaging them in fun games and activities that enhance the brand personality and keep our products top-of-mind."

Planet Twinkie's Web address is printed on all Hostess product packaging, and mentioned at the end of the company's television commercials. Additionally, several cross-promotions with child-friendly Web sites direct additional traffic to Planet Twinkie. The most frequently visited area of this Web site, "Downhill Extreme," features a raccoon on skis, an image familiar to children who have seen it in the company's television commercials. The animal attempts to gobble up as many Twinkies as it can.

Keebler's online marketing program provides instant messages for children who surf the Internet. According to Anndee Soderberg, a Keebler representative: "Instant messaging is an ideal advertising venue. Just as consumers are tired of traditional online advertising, ActiveBuddy shows up with a fresh, welcome way of interacting with customers. And the stellar results from our test suggest the integration of brand with instant messaging is the way to go."

Cheez-It Crackers employs an instant message system for promotional purposes as well. Smarter-Child Instant Message launched a National Football League section that delivers current football information, along with Cheez-It Crackers Game Day Sweepstakes. Football season tickets are given away in the online-offline integrated promotion.

Kellogg prints secret codes in special marked boxes of its food products. Children use the code to log on to the Kellogg Web site and earn points with which they can buy items listed on the Web site.

Commercial Partnerships. Inevitably, child food product promotion became entwined with the marketing and promotion of other enterprises. The linkages vary, and include school vending machines, children's theme parks, publishers of juvenile books, game manufacturers, popular cartoon characters from children's television programs and movies, sporting events, and other enterprises.

School partnerships with Coca-Cola and Pepsi have existed in the United States for many years. One or the other has had exclusive contracts in many public schools to install vending machines with their products, offer T-shirts with brand logos, and engage in other promotional programs to win the hearts and stomachs of American school children. Brand preference is imprinted on young minds, with oblique endorsement by the participating schools. In return, schools receive handsome sums to finance new band uniforms, the rental or purchase of musical instruments, school trips, and other extracurricular activities frequently not available in otherwise Spartan school budgets.

More recently, schools have linked their Web sites to companies in exchange for laptop computers for their students. Other cooperative programs provide schools with closed-circuit television viewing of news, in conjunction with advertisements of products sold by the donors of the appliances.

Old staple tie-ins have been with Willy Wonka Candies and McDonald's Happy Meals. Cereals for children have long had toy offers from the latest movie or television show. …

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