Warning: Dora the Explorer may be dangerous to your children’s health

Spend any time at all with a 4-year old, and you’ll realize a couple of things right away: first, Fours are a lot like Twos except they’re now bigger, stronger and louder. Secondly, Fours are not skeptical at all about what grownups tell them. Although children of this age have fairly advanced cognitive skills as well as both short- and long-term memory in place, they do not have any marketing savvy.

Researchers at Yale University confirmed this observation recently when they found that simply adding licensed cartoon characters such as Dora the Explorer to product packaging can drive pre-schoolers to choose higher-calorie, less healthful foods over more nutritious options.  And that is precisely why the fast-food industry in North America spends over $3 billion marketing to the tiniest consumers.

Not only do pre-schoolers lack the ability to figure out the marketing motives of advertisers, they do have what’s known as “pester power”, an innate children’s ability to nag their parents into purchasing items they may not otherwise buy. Thus marketing to children is all about creating pester power, because advertisers know what a powerful force it can be.  Continue reading