Does Relentless Advertising Work?

One answer to this question comes from a study conducted a few years ago by the Stanford University School of Medicine and Packard Children’s Hospital.

child and fast food -- result of relentless advertising

Photo by Andrey Armyagov/dpc

According to, kids 3 to 5 years old were fed two sets of identical foods — some in McDonald’s wrappers and some wrapped in plain paper.

They overwhelmingly preferred the stuff when it came with a Mickey-D’s logo.

“Each child was given chicken nuggets, a hamburger and french fries from McDonald’s, and baby carrots and milk from the grocery store… With one exception, significantly more children said the McDonald’s-labeled product tasted better.”

McDonald’s spends an enormous amount of money to advertise to children, and apparently they have purchased brand loyalty beginning at a very early age. If you’ve ever driven past a McDonald’s at lunchtime with a car full of kids, you’ve seen brand loyalty translate into sales. And although they’ve hit some bumps in the road recently, they’ve got a 60-year track record of sales dominance — without question, they belong in the advertising training textbook.

McDonald’s has enough money to be seen and heard just about everywhere; the rest of us have to be more selective in choosing market segments and media opportunities we can afford to dominate. But even without a huge marketing budget, you can still follow the basic principles that have kept McDonald’s at the top of their category:

1. Have a consistent theme and spokesperson — the Golden Arches logo has been there forever, and Ronald McDonald has been a significant part of the marketing effort for decades.

2. Establish a long-term plan, and stick with it. The most successful markets map out a year at a time, and they don’t cancel their ads after a bad weekend.

3. Make an offer. A small portion of McDonald’s advertising is for image, but most of it gives the target consumer a specific benefit — a coupon, a new product, a movie tie-in — for doing business with them today.

[bctt tweet=”The basic techniques for generating action haven’t changed. Start early, keep going.”]

It takes careful planning, patience, and money to establish a dominant position in your market. Attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been.

But the basic techniques for gaining the consumer’s attention, interest, desire, and action haven’t changed. Start early, keep going.

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