This paper tests the comparative effectiveness of spokes-characters, both ‘celebrity’ and ‘non-celebrity’, in promoting healthy versus non-healthy foods. An experimental study among 6- to 7-year-old children in Belgium demonstrates that adding a spokes-character (i.e., a gnome) to a food product increases the appetite, the wished-for frequency of consumption and the expected number of purchase requests for that product. This finding holds true for healthy foods (apples and grapes) as well as for unhealthy foods (cookies and chocolate). The effect of the celebrity spokes-character exceeds that of a similar (but unknown) gnome. Nevertheless, the latter is also capable of promoting the healthy and unhealthy products. These findings suggest that using ‘celebrity’ spokes-characters to promote healthy foods to children might indeed be an effective strategy to change children’s diets. Even the use of similar, non-celebrity (and thus cheaper) spokes-characters could be quite fruitful.
© 2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston