Why We Can’t Stop Liking the Brands We Loved as Kids
A story of neural networks and affect-based heuristics. Also, Tony the Tiger.
March 12, 2014
One paradox of advertising comes from a powerful inverse relationship between age and money. The people most likely to be swayed by most commercials are impressionable children (who have no money). Meanwhile, it’s incredibly difficult to persuade adults (who have all the money) to break from habit and buy a new product.
A new study from the Journal of Consumer Research finds a clever loophole in this paradox. People hold onto a deep fondness for brands, like Kellogg’s cereal and other foods with friendly mascots, that they were exposed to as children. The consumer brain is a bag of concrete mix before a person turns 13: Anything you can slip in the soft blend is likely to harden, along with our neural networks, by the time we become a money-spending adult. This Concrete-Mix theory of habit formation was behind efforts to ban cigarette ads targeting young people.