Branding and a child’s brain: an fMRI study of neural responses to logos
Branding and advertising have a powerful effect on both familiarity and preference for products, yet no neuroimaging studies have examined neural response to logos in children. Food advertising is particularly pervasive and effective in manipulating choices in children. The purpose of this study was to examine how healthy children’s brains respond to common food and other logos. A pilot validation study was first conducted with 32 children to select the most culturally familiar logos, and to match food and non-food logos on valence and intensity. A new sample of 17 healthy weight children were then scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Food logos compared to baseline were associated with increased activation in orbitofrontal cortex and inferior prefrontal cortex. Compared to non-food logos, food logos elicited increased activation in posterior cingulate cortex. Results confirmed that food logos activate some brain regions in children known to be associated with motivation. This marks the first study in children to examine brain responses to culturally familiar logos. Considering the pervasiveness of advertising, research should further investigate how children respond at the neural level to marketing.