Good News: Elmo Sells Fruit!

Today in The Positive Power of Branding News: findings from a recent Cornell University branding study caught our eye as a rare point of light among the usual thread of negative news. Why? Because researchers seem to have discovered, at long last, a way to convince kids to eat their fruits (if not their vegetables).

When given a choice, a 10-year-olds will always pick a cookie over an apple, right? Well, this nugget of common knowledge is no match for the power of branding fueled by a little of that Muppets magic.

The study in question involved more than 200 boys and girls of various backgrounds aged 8 to 11. On each day of a given week, after each child selected a lunch option, they were given a choice of either a cookie or an apple for an after-meal “dessert.” Here’s where the researchers played with the kids’ minds: On alternating days, they placed an Elmo sticker on each item. They also measured the results when the sticker bore an unfamiliar character and when neither item included a sticker.

Their findings were a little shocking: Kids were twice as likely to pick the apple over the cookie if it had Elmo’s image on it. What’s more, the Muppet didn’t make the cookie any more appealing–and the unknown character made no difference at all.

Yes, this study was small, but we find its revelations fascinating. For all we read and write about the power of “branding” in its various guises, we never dreamed that a simple sticker would have the power to make a kid eat an apple when a cookie is right there just begging to be taken! We see a great collaboration between the U.S. Apple Association and the Children’s Television Workshop in the near future. Hell, stick Grover on a mixed salad and see if the kids go for it! Anything is possible!

PR pros: What kind of branding projects can you dream up based on this study’s findings?