Branding is a goal of most companies and involves providing a name or symbol that legally identifies a company, a specific product, or a product line and that distinguishes it from other companies or similar products in the marketplace (Roberts, 2004). Branding has become a normalized part of life for American children and adolescents (Schor, 2004). The rate of brand loyalty is highest among adolescents, especially for carbonated soft drinks and QSRs. Brand loyalty may be related to the increased trend over the past 20–30 years in sweetened beverage consumption and the proportion of calories that children and youth receive from away-from-home foods, beverages, and meals, especially those purchased and consumed at full serve restaurants and QSRs. These products often contain higher amounts of fat and total calories than those products consumed at home (IOM, 2006).
After reviewing the available literature on branding and young consumers, the IOM Committee on Food Marketing to Children and Youth concluded that children are aware of particular food brands when they are as young as 2 to 3 years of age and that preschoolers demonstrate the ability to recognize particular brands when they are cued by spokes-characters and colorful packages. The committee also found that a majority of children’s food requests are for branded products.
Although the use of child-oriented licensed cartoon and other fictional or real-life spokescharacters to promote the consumption of low-nutrient and high-calorie food and beverage products has been a prevalent practice over the past several decades, the use of licensed characters to promote foods and beverages that contribute to healthful diets, particularly for preschoolers, is relatively recent (IOM, 2006). Preliminary evaluation and research results from the Sesame Workshop suggests that preschoolers may view fruits, vegetables, and other foods that contribute to a healthful diet more favorably if they are endorsed by familiar and appealing spokes-characters or mascots (Appendix H).
More recently, businesses, institutions, and communities are using branding to promote behavioral changes, often called lifestyle branding or behavioral branding. Such branding encourages individuals to associate a brand or a product line with a specific behavior, lifestyle, or social cause (Holt, 2004; IOM, 2006; Roberts, 2004; Tillotson, 2006a). Examples of initiatives that promote this type of branding are Active Living by Design (RWJF, 2006), Balanced Active Lifestyles (McDonald’s Corporation, 2006), Healthy Eating, Active Living (Kaiser Permanente, 2006), Health is Power! (PepsiCo, 2006a), Fruits and Veggies—More Matters!™ (PBH, 2006), the VERB™ campaign (Wong et al., 2004) (Chapter 4), and the American Legacy Foundation’s truth® campaign (Evans et al., 2005).
Given the growing concerns linking corporate marketing practices and the obesity epidemic among children, youth, and adults in the United States