The McAddicts Make Pavlov, Advertisers Proud

Same pride cannot be said for parents


It’s no surprise that McDonald’s has been slowly but surely dominated by better burgers and better fries from Burger King, tastier nuggets from Wendy’s, and more satisfying milk shakes from Johnny Rockets. How has this chain, so entangled in law suits, bad publicity and fat children with angry mothers, stay standing and still coveted?

Pavlov may be thanked for giving us some scientific footing in solving this fast food mystery—unless we should be considering any possibility of the corporation slipping cocaine into our greasy, fatty, thin-sliced patties.  In fact, such a thought isn’t far off from what the latest news has introduced. McDonald’s, without a doubt, has found a way to stick a super-fried IV into our veins and we’re eager to suck on the fat. Ivan Pavlov, Russian psychologist, determined through experimental research the basic laws of conditional reflexes. His famous trials of training dogs to salivate when they hear a bell is precisely what we’re looking at two centuries later.

A new study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital has confirmed what we’ve always known: that children subjected to the golden arches overwhelmingly rate McDonald’s frozen and then fried potato shavings as better than real wedges, McDonald’s tiny bites of burgers as more delicious than a real, grilled-to-perfection 8 ouncer, its sausage patties more orgasmic than any Bob Evans links, and its nuggets beyond compare.  This new study claims that kids 3 to 5 favor branded foods over unbranded—despite the fact that they are identical. Significantly more children are said to have rated the McDonald’s-labeled products as more tasty.

Taken from Advertising Age:Researchers tested 63 children aged 3 to 5 who were also enrolled in Northern California Head Start programs. The children had an average of 2.4 TVs per household, and more than half had sets in their rooms. About 30% ate at McDonald’s more than once a week and more than 75% had McDonald’s toys at home.Each child was given chicken nuggets, a hamburger and french fries from McDonald’s and baby carrots and milk from the grocery store. The children were given identical portions of food, some carrying the McDonald’s logo, and others wrapped in plain paper. With one exception, significantly more children said the McDonald’s-labeled product tasted better. Oddly enough, the product they did not rate as better is McDonald’s signature item: the burger.”

The golden arches stationed on that easily recognizable red pavilion are more than enough to make a child salivate on cue. Is it truly attributable to a fantastic branding gimmick that allows us to recognize unique tastes with that flashy logo, or is it more due in fact to old fashioned psychology? What this study finds is a hard fact merging of the effects of branding and the corruption of the mind. Don’t get me wrong—this is by far a success for the corporation and for advertisers, and I highly applaud their accomplishments and abilities to so deeply ingrain. Hey, they did their job, right?  Barring all other measures of successes, however, it has gotten to a sore point when we have to offer carrots, apples and salads with a brand name to make children eat the good stuff. For all that it matters, advertising and consumerism is supposed to be a never-ending duel. For all that advertising persuades you to do, the individual must battle it out with a challenge. This is how the symbiotic relationship can be sustained. In other words, if your child wants those apples from McDonalds and not your shiny Whole Foods one, it’s time to regulate. We play devil’s advocate. You play parent.

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