While it’s obvious from our research that today’s moms appreciate licensed characters that educate and teach their kids, we wondered if they believe entertainment producers have an obligation to create characters that do this. The conversation quickly turned to food licensing. Moms are well aware of the growing childhood obesity epidemic and that many legislators and advocacy groups are clamoring to prohibit the use of licensed characters on ‘unhealthy’ packaged foods and beverages. So how do they feel about restricting the types of food products licensors can lend their characters to?
Interestingly, not one of the 14 moms we talked to felt that the government should play any role in determining whether characters can be used on products. ‘I don’t see that it’s the government’s job to tell people what’s healthy and what’s not, and it’s not their job to tell a company how to market a product,’ said Jennifer, mother of two boys (two and 13) and two girls (four and seven). Similarly, Julie, who has five kids, piped in with, ‘I think everyone has a right to make a choice about whether to purchase something. Just because there’s a licensed character on a box of cereal does not mean you have to buy it.’
Moms also feel comfortable with characters who lead dual lives, so to speak. In other words, it’s fine by them to have the same licensed character on both healthy and unhealthy foods at the same time. Kris, a mother of three, said, ‘It’s OK because the kids aren’t the ones deciding what they’re going to eat. We pack their lunches every night…It’s our choice to decide what they’re going to eat, at least with [younger] kids.’ Another mother of three boys and a girl under age nine was even more sanguine. ‘Yes, that’s what I expect,’ said Marla. ‘I expect those characters on everything, and I don’t correlate it to healthy or unhealthy, or an [action] toy versus a learning toy. When Shrek came out…you saw that face on every single item that they could get that face on, and so it’s not shocking anymore. When the kids see it…I might say ‘OK, we’ll get that this time,’ but it’s not the selling point for me.’
Since the moms didn’t seem to harbor any negative feelings towards licensed foods, we asked them if there was any type of product they would want to erase from store shelves. The universal answer? Violent video games with realistic killing.