The Behavioral Economics Of Eating A Carrot

Posted by Paladin on July 10, 2009

In a recent Newsweek article, Sarah Kliff advises that if you want your children to eat their vegetables, simply “rename them” (the vegetables, not the kids).  She explained that “When researchers told kindergarteners they were eating ‘X-ray vision carrots’ rather than plain old vegetables, the kids ate 50 percent more.”

X-ray vision carrots?  That, ladies and gentlemen, is called marketing.

The buzzsaw of toddler protest against foods that have even a trace of nutritional integrity is something I’ve experienced first hand.  A few weeks ago, I found myself in just such a impasse as I tried to explain to my three-year old why he should eat his cucumbers.  None of my erudite rationalizations swayed him.  If anything, he dug his heels in.

Then I walked over to him, rolled up my sleeve, and showed him my muscle, and said, “You see this? This is why you should eat your cucumbers!”

The result?  Argument over. 

With one look at my flexed bicep, his objections evaporated instantly and he happily devoured his cucumber slices. It makes sense.  After all, who can argue with a flexed bicep?

But I would submit that this too, is marketing.  The only difference is that the latter is a visual solution, while the former is a headline-driven solution.  Either way, it’s marketing.

News flash: if you’re a parent, you’re a full-time marketer.  And your end user is pretty fickle, so choose your marketing program carefully.

Smart people, like Professor David Just of Cornell University don’t call it marketing, he calls it Behavorial Economics.  Behavorial Economics is an academic field that studies the role of environmental factors in decision making.

So if you’re an advertising or marketing professional, you’re actually a behavorial economist.  Now go home and eat your X-ray vision carrots.

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