Imagine Nesquik without the bunny, Cheetos without the coolness of Chester Cheetah, or how about Rice Krispies without the company of Snap, Crackle, and Pop! Those are just a few examples to mention, but the fact is that many of those memorable characters that we grew up with, children from countless countries will never have the chance to see in action.
You might think that’s sad, but for countries like Chile, the UK, Mexico, Ireland, Canada, and Norway, this isn’t sad, but necessary. Because they see branded characters as significant influencers in food marketing to children, governments from those countries have passed strict laws with regulations that prohibit the use of characters in their advertising and packaging. But that’s not the only thing; Chile, for example, requires brands to put large visible warnings on their packaging, clearly communicating high levels of sugar, sodium, and other important nutrition information.
Most companies that have been affected by this see these regulations as an attack, but it’s actually a tactic from those governments to protect children from obesity. Chile and Mexico have some of the largest populations in the world of obese children and many people blame what is labeled as junk food marketing. In the long run, these children could grow up to become adults with illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol which could bring consequences to their health system and economy.
These new regulations are pushing brands to adopt a moral responsibility, to the point that some companies have had to even adjust their original formulas or recipes and not just their unhealthy food marketing. But the challenge goes beyond that; they need to come up with new advertising and marketing tactics to get their audience’s attention and earn their place at the table, which can even mean aiming messages toward parents instead of children. What would convince you to buy a product that uses a character your kids like, but that also has high levels of sugar?
This is kind of what happened when several countries banned tobacco advertising. Remember the Marlboro Man and when he disappeared. How about when major sports brands like Formula 1 and NASCAR prohibited cigarette brands in their cars and races. So, if you have a brand character, what are your thoughts if this gets implemented here? How would your brand react? Does your brand have what it takes to exist without its cartoonish spokesperson? Also, if you have kids, what are your thoughts on brands with company mascots? Are you reading the labels on the food your kids eat? Are you buying the box with the character instead of a healthier option?
It might be more likely that brands need a more human, honest, and true-life posture to better connect with their audiences. But advertisers might insist on tried and true tactics. If you’re not sure this is the case, think of how many ads from this past Super Bowl had characters and were very memorable and how many didn’t.