The formation of food brand associations and attachment is fundamental to brand preferences, which influence purchases and consumption. Food promotions operate through a cascade of links, from brand recognition, to affect, and on to consumption. Frequent exposures to product promotions may establish social norms for products, reinforcing brand affect. These pathways signify potential mechanisms for how children’s exposure to unhealthy food promotions can contribute to poor diets. The present study explored children’s brand associations and attachments for major food brands.
A cross-sectional online survey was conducted. Fourteen study brands were used, with each child viewing a set of seven logos. The questionnaire assessed perceptions of food brands and perceptions of users of brands, using semantic differential scales, and perceived brand ‘personalities’, using Likert scales.
New South Wales, Australia, October–November 2014.
Children aged 10–16 years (n 417).
Children demonstrated strong positive affect to certain brands, perceiving some unhealthy food brands to have positive attributes, desirable user traits and alignment to their own personality. Brand personality traits of ‘smart’ and ‘sporty’ were viewed as indicators of healthiness. Brands with these traits were ranked lower for popularity.
Children’s brand associations and attachments indicate the potential normative social influences of promotions. While children are aware of brand healthiness as an attribute, this competes with other brand associations, highlighting the challenge of health/nutrition messaging to counter unhealthy food marketing. Restricting children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing and the persuasive nature of marketing is an important part of efforts to improve children’s diet-related health.