Kids’ Food Marketing Goes Viral

The Lempert Report
June 21, 2016

Marketing unhealthy products virally raises concerns among health experts.

According to a recent University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy report, kids are seeing more unhealthy food ads than ever before as brands increased their ad dollars on TV and on social media. Huffington Report says that the research found that companies are moving to newer forms of digital marketing: “As social media sites enlist teens to market unhealthy products virally to their friends this form of marketing raises additional concerns among health experts.” 

What’s interesting about the way these brands are achieving notoriety and a following with this younger generation is that many of the photos that contained brands mimicked the existing ad.  Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Or are the brands just fooling themselves thinking that this is the new model of advertising by a new generation that they just don’t understand? 

The authors of the study say that  these younger consumers are just not aware that they’re participating in what becomes an ad. They point to campaigns such as Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke,” Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s who have had similar hashtag related campaigns where, according to the study, food photos are part of the teen’s identity profile on Instagram – and not necessarily an endorsement of the campaign or brand.

No question that social media spreads the word, the question is whether it is just seen and not heard.