Use a Rabbit or a Rhino to Sell a Carrot? The Effect of Character-Product Congruence on Children's Liking of Healthy Foods

a Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam , Amsterdam , The Netherlands.
Journal of Health Communication (Impact Factor: 1.61). 05/2012; 17(9):1068-80. DOI: 10.1080/10810730.2011.650833
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study investigated whether unfamiliar characters are as effective as familiar characters in stimulating children's affective responses toward healthy foods. In particular, the authors investigated whether an unfamiliar character which is congruent with a product can be as effective as a familiar character. The authors tested 2 types of character-product congruence: conceptual congruence (on the basis of a familiar link), and perceptual congruence (on the basis of color similarity). In a repeated measures design, 166 children (4-6 years old) were exposed to a picture of a carrot combined randomly with 5 different types of character: an (incongruent) familiar character and four unfamiliar characters varying in character-product congruence (i.e., both conceptually and perceptually congruent, conceptual only, perceptual only, and incongruent). The authors measured children's automatic affective responses toward these character-product combinations using a time-constrained task, and elaborate affective responses using a nonconstrained task. Results revealed that the conceptually congruent unfamiliar characters were just as effective as the familiar character in increasing children's automatic affective responses. However, the familiar character triggered the most positive elaborate affective responses. Results are explained in light of processing fluency and parasocial relationship theories.

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