Lifelong brand loyalty is common. From a very young age we are targeted with adverts that convey a feeling of fun and happiness, especially for toys and food products. But what happens to these notions once we have grown up?
Brand loyalty refers to consumer behavior – when a person buys products with a specific brand again and again.
Researchers from the University of Arizona and Stony Brook University published a study in the Journal of Consumer Research – “How Childhood Advertising Exposure Can Create Biased Product Evaluations That Persist into Adulthood” – demonstrating that lifelong brand loyalty is pervasive and carries well into our adult lives. Our biases are difficult to shake off.
Authors Paul M. Connell, Merrie Brucks, and Jesper H. Nielsen said:
“Our research provides an initial investigation into how exposure to ads in childhood can lead to enduring biases that favor products associated with the ads once the kids grow up.”
Through four studies, the researchers gathered data on adults’ judgments regarding how healthy a range of products were – some of them were advertised heavily when they were children.
Exposure to characters before age 13 encourages lifelong brand loyalty
The volunteers looked at images of characters they had been extensively exposed to when they were kids.
The results demonstrated that when exposed to advertising characters before 13 years of age, people develop long-term feeling towards them, which evolves into a lifelong brand loyalty.
The team also found that adults with predominantly positive feelings towards characters they were exposed to as small children were much less likely to change their minds about the products featured in the advertisements.
This lifelong brand loyalty or character loyalty was not only limited to products in the original ads.
When the characters were presented alongside fictitious new brands they were rated as healthier by the participants.
Implications for public health and safety campaigns
The authors say their findings may provide some insight into safety and public health campaigns targeted at children. Health-oriented media campaigns by companies aimed at kids could attempt to relate to them at an emotional level, e.g. by emphasizing characters they love and adding fun narratives.
The team concluded:
“These results are interesting for consumers themselves, particularly parents. We recommend adults reexamine the nutrition labels on favorite products from childhood, and also suggest that parents discuss the persuasive nature of advertising with their children – encouraging them to develop critical thinking skills in response to advertising messages.”