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The Strategy Of Using Collectible Toys In Fast-Food Industry

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Fast food has grown to be such a commonplace that it has become synonymous with the term “unhealthy”. As such, meals from most fast food restaurants are brimming with high amount of calories, sodium and fat. The use of collectible toys has also become a widespread practice in a significant number of fast-food chains to incite customers to purchase more. Moreover, a significant number of these premiums are specifically targeted towards children to make a specific purchases. However, can the use of this strategy influence kids to make better decisions towards their health?

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A notable example of a fast-food chain using collectible toys includes McDonald’s Happy Meal, which comes with either a toy or a book. In a research conducted with 85 children, they presented them with both a healthy option and a fast-food option without the inclusion of any toys. The results showed that most of those children opted for the fast food option. Therefore, demonstrating that children are naturally more attracted to fast foods. Likewise, in another experiment done by the same team with a sample size of 56 children, the healthier meal was paired up with a premium while the fast food option was not. 71. 4% of the sample size chose the healthier option while the rest chose the fast-food option. As a result, this experiment demonstrates a strong correlation with the children attitude towards a meal and the presence of a collectible toy. This strategy has proven that children can be influenced to try out different options other than the ones they are naturally attracted to if there is an intervention from another factor, which in this case, are the toys.

Although the use of this strategy might seem successful, there have been many topics debated about the ethical morals of this marketing strategy. A main topic of one of these debates involves manipulating children to eat certain kinds of food based on the packaging and the premiums that it comes with instead of teaching them the importance of their health and nutrition. While in-store premium has proven to successfully help children attempt new options, this has only proven to work if no other factors are involved. Moreover, the study has not shown any long-lasting effects. In addition, according to a research done by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, only 26% out of the 281 online food advertisement done involved toys and other giveaways. This signifies that in-store premiums do not make up for a significant portion of the advertising that is directed at children.

In comparison stealth marketing, which is defined “as embedding products in the program content in films, online, and in video games”, is a more commonly used advertising strategy. This type of marketing affects children more profoundly and makes it more difficult to locate. Using the research shown above, the inclusion of toys can incite children to try out meals with more nutritional value, especially if these premiums are only paired up with meals that meet the nutritional standard.

This research, however, does not support any long-term influence in their decision towards their health. This is also coupled with the fact that there are a number of other marketing strategies targeted towards these children, which are impractical if not outright impossible for parents to prevent. Overall, the impact of premiums alone is not enough to influence children to make better decisions about their health as they mature.

15 July 2020

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