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37% Say Marketers Play Role In Childhood Obesity

We all read frequent references to growing concerns about nutrition/health issues among consumers, but just how pervasive are these?
Ongoing, in-depth attitudinal surveys conducted by Resonate Networks, Inc. confirm not only that such issues are on the minds of significant percentages of U.S. adults, but that many believe that companies and government are key in addressing them.

Case in point: 35% of adults rank childhood obesity as an "extremely serious" societal problem, and 34% rank this as a "serious" problem, according to this research.

Further, asked how much responsibility they think corporations, through their product marketing, have for childhood obesity, 23% say that corporations have "some" responsibility, and 14% say that corporations have the "greatest" responsibility.

Perhaps not surprising, then, 35% indicate that they support limiting advertising of "high-sugar/high-fat" foods and beverages to children.

Resonate offers "attitudinal targeting" for online advertisers, using proprietary research (representative of the U.S. adult online population), algorithms, data modeling and analysis to probe consumer attitudes, issue positions, ideologies, engagement levels and voting histories across a wide range of political, social and lifestyle topics and issues. Consumer attitudinal data is then correlated with permission-based data on which sites they visit most frequently.

In the high-profile area of nutritional disclosure policies, 40% of adults overall say that they support requiring fast-food restaurants to display nutritional information, including 44% of women and 36% of men, reports Resonate.

Asked which types of taxes they would support as a means of reducing the U.S. budget deficit, however, just 22% overall say they would support taxes on food and beverages with high-sugar or high-fat content, while 36% say they would oppose such taxes. (Among those who support fast-food restaurant nutrition disclosure, 36% say they would support such taxes.)

Only taxes on stock dividends (21%), digital downloads (14%) and Internet purchases show lower support among adults as a whole.

Much higher levels of support are indicated for taxes on tobacco (58%), gambling (51%), families with incomes of more than $250,000 per year (50%), luxury goods (45%), alcoholic beverages (43%), "gas guzzling" automobiles (37%) and carbon emissions (36%).

For marketers, one of the clearest and most consistent takeaways from nutrition/health-related attitudes research is consumers' emphasis on wanting the information and disclosure they need in order to make knowledgeable decisions for themselves and their families, says Resonate CEO Bryan Gernert.

"Basically, the research shows that anything that people view as potentially obfuscating, rather than enhancing, their information about nutrition will ultimately have negative repercussions for marketers," Gernert says. "Consumers respond positively to transparency and educational approaches that help them understand the health impacts of consuming specific foods and beverages."

While Resonate hasn't specifically probed attitudes about high fructose corn syrup, or the corn manufacturers' proposal to the FDA to allow a name change to "corn sugar," Gernert says it's logical to assume that this is a case where reaching the consumers who care most about nutritional transparency with a straightforward, educational approach would be most effective for the industry if the name-change is approved.

"I would suggest an educational campaign to targeted audiences that clearly acknowledges that, 'Yes, we've changed the name, and it's the same product, but this product was always safe for you and your family-along with the specifics supporting that the corn syrup is no different than table sugar, in terms of metabolism and health considerations."

On the targeting point, Gernert adds, attitudinal, as opposed to demographic and/or behavioral (cookie-based) data alone, point to perhaps counter-intuitive findings.

For instance, when it comes to reaching the highest concentrations of people who care most about being provided with nutritional/ingredients information, DiscoveryNews.com out-pulls sites such as Parents.com, BonAppetit.com and USNews.com. Similarly, GQ.com out-pulls sites such as WomensHealth.com and WomansDay.com, he reports.


Karlene Lukovitz, MediaPost News. September 30, 2010

Copyright © 2010 MediaPost News. All rights reserved.