Trust Is Why People Listen

Jennifer Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief

There has been much written about the controversy surrounding marketing to kids lately, and the difficult situation in which brand marketers find themselves. Police yourselves or we’ll do it for you, is the clear message from business and government leaders like the Council for Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and others. And 11 leading food and beverage manufacturers recently volunteered to do just that, committing to broad changes in the way they market their products to children. (For the full story, see BRANDPACKAGING’s September 2007 issue, archived at
With childhood obesity at an all-time high, and films like Super Size Me making all of us look at our eating habits with a bit more scrutiny, there’s no doubt that there is opportunity for marketers to impact the way in which a new generation of children perceives food and makes food choices.
At this year’s Packaging that Sells conference, held in October, I found myself scribbling furiously in my notebook as one of our keynote speakers touched on just this topic. Larry Light, former EVP and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s and now CEO of Arcature, spoke frankly and passionately about the power, and the responsibility, of marketing.
“Marketing isn’t about exploiting consumer concerns,” he reminded the audience. “It’s about responding to consumer needs.”
Light shared a story that not only illustrates the power of marketing, but also the power of packaging, to affect positive change. Think back to when you were a kid, trapped in the car on one of those seemingly endless family vacations to points unknown. Salvation often came in the form of the “Golden Arches”. My sister and I had radar that could detect the glowing sign from miles away. What better place to break up the monotony of the drive and feast on a delicious Happy Meal, made just for kids.
Sure, milk was a drink option, but at the time it came in one of those funky-looking cartons, difficult to drink in the car, and nowhere near as “fun” as the colorful graphics on the Happy Meal box. A disconnect to be sure.
Fast forward to today. When McDonald’s transitioned its single-serve milk into a plastic bottle with a full-body shrink sleeve (featuring graphics of Ronald McDonald surfing) it made milk a viable option for kids. To the tune of a 200+ percent increase in sales, said Light.
“Don’t question the power of marketing,” he concluded. “Question the methods and take responsibility for the use of that power. Truth speaks, trust is why people listen.”
Words I, and our audience, won’t soon forget.