Children’s drink choices influenced by personalized labels, study finds

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Children are more likely to be influenced to choose unhealthy drinks with their name on it than personalized healthy drinks, researchers say. ©iStock/monkeybusinessimages
Children are more likely to be influenced to choose unhealthy drinks with their name on it than personalized healthy drinks, researchers say. ©iStock/monkeybusinessimages

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Personalized marketing of soft drinks influences and increases the choice of those drinks among children, according to a study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Researchers from the National University of Ireland Galway’s School of Psychology set out to determine whether personalizing both healthy and unhealthy bottled beverages influences children’s beverage choices and whether those choices are affected by self-esteem, body mass index, and parental factors.

Personalization and self-esteem levels affect drink choice

To determine this, 404 children were randomly assigned to one of the three drinking label conditions (Prime Healthy, Prime Unhealthy, and Control). All the participants selected one beverage from 12 options, comprising six 'healthy' (water, milk, low-sugar fruit juice) and six 'unhealthy' (Coke, Fanta, 7up) beverages.

In the Prime Healthy group, 33.6% (44 participants) of the children chose a healthy drink featuring their name or a different name, compared to 16.9% in the Control group, and 7.6% in the Prime Unhealthy group.

The researchers of the study also accounted for the child’s level of self-esteem, based off of a self assessment test, and found that it was a strong predictor of personalized beverages.

“Personalizing healthy drink choices considerably increased healthy drink choices and personalizing unhealthy drink choices considerably reduced healthy drink choices. In addition, children with high self-esteem were more likely to choose a drink that featured their name than children low in self-esteem,”​ the study stated.

Researchers hypothesized that beverages displaying their name may trigger positive associations for children with high self-esteem.

The study also found that there were no significant associations of BMI or parental consumption of soft drinks with a child’s choice of unhealthy or healthy drinks. However, the soft drink availability in the child’s home was associated with a lower probability of choosing healthier drinks.

While the impact of personalization of beverages affected the choice of both unhealthy and healthy drinks there was a marginally stronger effect for personalized unhealthy drinks promoting unhealthy choices than personalized healthy drinks promoting healthy choices.

“This somewhat counter-intuitive outcome was observed, because unhealthy drinks were the preferred choice by the majority of children (83.1%) in the control condition,” ​according to the study.


Source: Pediatric Obesity

Published online ahead of print: doi:10.1111/ijpo.12193

Taking the sweetness out of the ‘Share a Coke’ marketing campaign: the influence of personalized labelling on elementary school children’s bottled drink choices”

Authors: F. McDarby, D. O’Hora, D. O’Shea, and M. Byrne

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