Why we buy junk food (and other junk)

Published: March 2, 2011

It is not just kids that are gullible in the face of such immaculate marketing.

Ever noticed how a six-year-old screams in excitement at the thought of junk food and squeals in pain at the thought of fruits and vegetables?

While many parents accuse the persuasiveness of food companies’ marketing strategies for their children’s avid interest in junk food, they are guilty of the same tactic. Whether it’s the Popeye story to get kids to eat spinach or Bugs Bunny to get them to eat carrots, parents employ the same strategy.

But it is not just kids that are gullible in the face of such immaculate marketing; it is every aunty that gasps at lawn billboards and marks her calendar for an upcoming exhibition, it is every uncle that plans 10 years ahead of time when he sees a premium banking, mortgage or insurance package.

Junk food items gross the highest revenues because of their targeted marketing strategies. Junk food items are used as a unique expression of perpetuating extra-ordinary powers by the individual cartoon characters being attached to each commodity. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables fail to compete with the fictitious facade of the marketed cartoon culture.

While international franchises like KFC captivate audiences with their fluffy Chicky as their official mascot, it is interesting to note that our local market has picked on the same trend to boost sales. Candyland introduced their chocolate, ‘Now’, and adopted an energetic advertising campaign. Hilal made use of the same concept in introducing Ding Dong bubble gum.

Agencies very aptly target children as their prime consumers and then use creativity to construct concepts that would lure children into consumption. But why target the innocent, naïve minds of children?  Apparently, advertising agencies take advantage of the assumption that a child possesses the greatest amount of ‘pester power’ in a household.

So parents beware because behind every successful unhealthy product, there is a very animated cartoon character.


Safia Kaleem

A Karachi based marketeer who works at Maersk

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Kiran

    very true and well written..Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org/2011/02/16/the-purpose-of-life/ Selina Gilani – Relationship

    One reason junk food is so popular coz of the social status and quick eating!!Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    A Big Mac or Zinger Burger every once in a while, or indeed a Fillet O Fish Burger is not going to hurt, but it’s excess.

    Eating a 2,000 calorie double-chicken Mc Donald’s burger on a one-off trip to a restaurant isn’t going to make kids unhealthy or obese, but eating it three of four times a week will definitely affect their health.

    Further to your information KFC official mascot is still Colonel Sanders, for children Chicky is used. So they are not tapping certain age group or say kids only. Their advertising campaign does not specifically appeal to any particular segment.

    Now talk about chocolate, even eating a bar of chocolate every day is good.

    Generally chocolates and candies are associated with kids or do you want CANDY LAND to target old aged people ?

    If fast food chains or confectionery brands have something healthy to offer kids then there is no harm in consuming them, everything in limit should be considered okay.

    I would have agreed with you had you criticized ad agencies or brands for attracting kids towards unhealthy products say cigarettes or Gutkas.Recommend

  • zunair ali

    i like ;)Recommend

  • parvez

    I think someone should come up with sound reasoning as to why burgers and pizza are labelled as junk food. Fast food I can accept but junk food is a stretch.
    Healthy eating is a matter of choice and for children its in the parents hands to decide.Recommend

  • Mehwish Saeed

    Very nicely put Tanzeel Recommend

  • Sarah

    I enjoyed Tanzeel’s comment more than the article itself :)

    Further I would like to add on..’Agencies very aptly target children as their prime consumers…’ agencies do not target anyone its the product which has the target market already.. Recommend

  • Omar Chaghtai

    Nice article.Recommend

  • http://mesaeed.blogspot.com Saeed

    Reminds me the movie Super Size Me.

    Well the thing that matters more is the number of times a week you eat Junk food. Recommend

  • http://www.sffdksNL.com Onita Orne

    I have to say your opinions could not have been demonstrated in a more thought provoking way. I commend you on the quality of this post. ThanksRecommend

  • http://raheelaijaz.blogspot.com Let us not digress

    I think it falls squarely on the parents to deal with such problems. no amount of advertisement and peer pressure can trump good values and upbringing. if parents uphold importance of nutrition, kids would never linger around such junk.Recommend

  • http://www.genuinblog.blogspot.com imrulhasan

    i think people get taste and enjoyment by eating it.Recommend