A recent study indicates that preschoolers prefer the taste of food in McDonald’s wrappers to the same food in generic wrappers. I agree that children prefer the McDonald’s food, but I don’t think it has anything to do with taste.
For instance, I think children prefer McDonald’s food because they associate it with fun. With Happy Meals, they get cool toys and their meal comes in its own little box. The restaurants have fun play areas for the kids to run around. And at least in our household, we usually only hit a Mickey D’s for a quick bite when we’ve been out on an adventure.
C’mon even as adults, we prefer to eat in restaurants when we can make the exact same thing at home. Why? Because it represents a night out, time with friends, relaxation.
If kids truly associated products with brands, then they would prefer McDonald’s to Burger King or Wendy’s. My toddlers love fast food french fries and chicken nuggets. They don’t care whether they come from Burger King or McDonald’s. My kids aren’t even particular about the toy — as long as it’s a toy. The twins don’t ask to go to McDonald’s, they ask for french fries.
True, my toddlers are only two, but a precocious two (even if I’m a little bias). They know what they like. For instance, my daughter is currently on a chocolate milk kick. It can’t be just milk.
But she doesn’t really care which container the chocolate milk came out of — most of the time. If, for instance, her brother — or a little friend — got a different container, well then that’s the one she wants. Again, it has nothing to do with taste. It’s what looks more fun/appetizing.
Just like eating out of mommy and daddy’s plate always tastes better. Same food, but it’s out of the adult plate.
As long as McDonald’s or Chuck E. Cheese (who’s pizza, by the way, taste like cardboard — this coming from someone who’ll eat the cheap frozen pizzas) make their places look like fun, they will always get our children’s vote.
What marketers of healthy food need to learn from this study is to make it fun. With the right marketing, kids will love fruits, veggies and more.
That’s also good advice for us parents. Make chores, food and other things we want our kids to do fun and inviting.
We like to pack a lunch and picnic out — even if it’s our own back yard — because it’s different and fun.