Intelligent Strategies & Creative Execution


Restaurant Marketing: The Value of a Child's Voice


By Mark Sibilia


Marketing to children is not a new strategy; for decades restaurants have known that kids influence their parents’ decisions when choosing a place to eat. It is also a great strategy to start exposing them to their brand at a young age to build brand loyalty. The rise of child obesity has caused parents to become health conscious and their choices to go out are based on the nutritional information and not impulse. As important as health is to today’s family, there is also the fact that people are also looking for a practical replacement to family dinners so that they can have some quality time.


Recently one of our employees shared a story about him and his son going to the mall. They were all going to where the employee thought was a healthy restaurant, which offered Greek Food. However, his son was adamant that Subway was healthier because that man on TV lost a lot of weight because he ate at Subway. When he shared with us this particular incident, it got us all thinking whether Subway had meant for its commercials to have this sort of effect on children? But more importantly, should restaurants consider marketing strategies geared towards children?


As you probably guessed they ended up eating at Subway, because whether we like to admit it or not, who can argue with his logic? Children will base their decisions not on taste or healthy choices, but on what they saw on TV or what their friends like. So it’s not really hard to target them, but is it valuable?  It is estimated that children under 12 influence as much as $500 billion in purchases each year!1

With that sort of influence it’s no wonder that McDonald’s has spent billions in marketing to children. In a recent study it was also determined, that brand loyalty starts at a much younger age than ever before.2


Since brand loyalty today starts at a much younger age than earlier generations, kids are much more savvy when it comes to picking one product over the other. Brand exposure is more important than ever. Children are more demanding of choice, and thanks to the advances of technology, they are aware of it. A modern child will no longer just want a toy, they will also want to eat healthy and maybe learn something on the way. Can you imagine a marketing campaign that is also educational, it may sound crazy, but anything is possible.


Healthy choices have become a big issue when it comes to marketing food to children, as pointed out by the Let’s Move! Initiative, launched by Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation. Canada has a similar project - CBC’s “Live Right Now” which wants to inspire everyone to join together and change the health of Canadians.3 Parents want what is best for their children, and they will look for that information wherever it is available. A recent article stated that the Internet is not only the number one source of information but also the second most trusted source after doctors.4 It carries a lot of weight in decision-making.


Directing campaigns at both children and parents work well, which brings to the next point; marketing to the whole family. The University of Minnesota, conducted a study in 2004; which determined that adolescent girls, who have frequent family meals, and a positive atmosphere during those meals, are less likely to have eating disorders. Another study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University kids who eat most often with their parents are 40% more likely to say they get mainly A’s and B’s in school than kids who have two or fewer family dinners a week. Swiss Chalet recently launched a “Family Time” campaign that takes aim at these particular issues.5


It takes a special type of company that researches and understands these findings to create smarter marketing campaigns for kids with influence and campaigns for health-minded parents and tech savvy teenagers. Gone are the days of campaigns that were successful just because of its creative concepts, now they need to be multi channeled (digital & print) as well as transparent (there are blogs whose only job is to take apart campaigns). Having a marketing plan geared towards children is no longer an option; it is a necessity.  If you have any questions about this article or if you’d like to discuss some of our creative strategies, please feel free to contact us.


Mark Sibilia is the President and CEO of MPP Marketing Group. For over 25 years Mark has developed, managed and executed award winning QSR and Pizzeria marketing campaigns for national, midsized chains. Additionally, Mark is an author and lecturer dedicated to the creation of innovative marketing solutions for the Pizza and QSR industry.




4. Yahoo Canada, “An Apple a Day: Healthy Living for Canadian Women”, 2011



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