Brand Preferences and the Two Year Old Child

Eli and Cheerios... by Gramody on FlickrMy son absolutely loves Fruity Cheerios.

About a year ago, he had them for breakfast at Grandma’s, and since then, he’s been in love with the little colorful circles. He prefers them to all other breakfast options, requesting Fruity Cheerios no matter what else we’re having. Twice a week or so, we relent, allowing him his Fruity Cheerios, since his other breakfasts are quite varied (oatmeal, eggs, and so on) and are accompanied by orange juice or milk, ensuring a diverse diet.

Luckily, we’ve been able to match coupons with Fruity Cheerios, bringing the price of a box of the lovely loops down to a reasonable price range. We’ve yet to pay more than two dollars for a box of the cereal.

Unfortunately, last week, our luck ran out just as the box emptied. As usual, my boy put in a request to get more Fruity Cheerios at the store, and when I checked my coupon binder, I didn’t find a useable coupon.

When I got to the store, I looked at several different brands of the same type of cereal, looking for a generic version that was also substantially lower in sugar than the truly awful Froot Loops. I found a generic brand that seemed to line up fairly well and decided to purchase that instead.

The next morning, my son requested Fruity Cheerios and I pulled out the bag of generic cereal. He got fairly upset, informing me that he wanted the “red box,” even after I poured him the bowl of cereal. He did eventually calm down and eat the cereal.

This made me curious, so I dug out the old Fruity Cheerios box and put some of the new generic cereal in it. The next time, I poured the generic cereal from the Fruity Cheerios box and he was quite happy with it.

Clearly, some of my son’s enjoyment of Fruity Cheerios comes from the branding. He insisted strongly on the “red box,” even though he couldn’t actually distinguish between the contents of the name brand and the generic cereal.

Obviously, I want my child to not grow up believing that branding is a requirement for a good product. This will not only save me money throughout the years as he grow, but will save him money in adulthood as well. So what’s the next step? I have two tactics in mind.

One tactic is demonstrating that I prefer the generic. Basically, whenever he has a morning where he’s allowed to have “Fruity Cheerios,” I eat the generic cereal right along with him. This takes advantage of parental imitation – he sees eating generics as the completely normal thing for an adult to do.

The other tactic? Keep buying the generic cereal and putting it into the Fruity Cheerios box right in front of him. If I keep doing this over and over again, when he reaches the right level of cognitive development, he’ll realize that the cereal he’s been eating all along is actually a generic brand – and he’ll realize it’s just as good as the name brand.

Any additional thoughts on how to reduce the influence of name brands on a young child?

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