The Golden Arches escalate Reading Speed!!!!!

Well we all know that Mc Donald can increase the waistline, increase cholesterol, increase obesity in children leading to future risks and the list of studies just don’t seem to end but let me tell you all this now passé.

Gone are the days when the repercussion of a fast food joint were restricted to eating . A recent study conducted by Chen-Bo Zhong and Sanford E. DeVoe at the University of Toronto reveled that a mere exposure to the most prevalent golden arches can  actually induce haste and impatience, in ways that have nothing to do with eating.

In the study researchers found that exposure to fast-food symbols — including the logos of McDonald’s, KFC, Subway and Taco Bell — make people both less likely to save money and more likely to feel like they’re running out of time.

The study was conducted by exposing students to nearly subliminal flashes of images (for 12 to 80 milliseconds) that included, in some cases, fast-food logos. The students were then asked to read text and choose between two different kinds of skin-care treatments — a three-in-one or a separate cleanser. As it turns out, the subliminal exposure to fast-food marketing caused the students to read “significantly faster” and made them more likely to choose the more time-saving product.

As if the guilt of having an increased waistline wasn’t enough. Now it turns out a just a glance at the Subway on my way to the high street can make me stressed and impulsive.  Various researchers have carried out similar studies. Remember the Red Bull Gives You wings Papper that discussed how the exposure to a Red Bull logo on a car in a video game induced the element of speed in them?

One of the first studies to really inspect this was conducted by Grainne M. Fitzsimons, Tanya L. Chartrand, and Gavan J. Fitzsimons in 2008. In this study, the researchers validated that participants who were subliminally primed with the Apple logo (a brand that consistently encourages its consumers to “Think Different”) were more creative in a standard laboratory creativity task than those who were exposed to the IBM logo.

Another recent study by Chen-Bo Zhong and Nina Mazar showed that participants who were exposed to products that were branded as ‘green’ were more humane and charitable than those who just saw regular products. However, they were less altruistic when they were asked to buy the product. This is an interesting twist because this could mean that actually buying the product nullifies the influence the brand has subconsciously.

So the next time I want to speed up I should walk past the KFC store…. not particularly a negative effect I must say or expose myself to an Apple logo for that sudden burst of creativity needed to write my next blog…..hmmm….. Well not sure if that is going to help but what I believe is that these studies definitely give useful insights into the idea of influencing consumers.

With the immense brand clutter the consumer experiences, the usual forms of media like television advertising or print allows the consumers to put up defense mechanism while being exposed to the ad thus making it ineffective. However brand managers could use insights from these studies and expose the consumers to brands in such way that it subconsciously targets them.  Subtle and smart product placements in movies and video games, web placement, viral videos or even interesting use of the ambient media seem to be the way to reach the consumers mind before they even realize they are being targeted.

What do you think do subconscious exposure of brand really affect our state of mind? If yes, Is it good or bad?




  1. I’m not particularly a big supporter of the subcontious explanation, there are different studies that refer to a priming effects that work through an intrinsic channel and shape the way in which people behave. However, at least in the case of the influence of McDonalds and other fast food brands on consumers attitudes I rather see it in terms of associations. Basic studies in classical conditioning demonstrated how non-operant responses such as salivation can be conditioned to appear after the presentation of a conditioned stimulus. In the same way this findings have been replicated in the context of consumer behaviour showing that emotions and attitudes towards brands can be also conditioned upon the same paradigm. As it was indicated by one of the papers that we read for the discussion sessions (Humor in Advertisements Enhances Product Liking by Mere Association) in marketing this phenomena is treated in terms of evaluating conditioning. As I see it this is evidence of how overwhelming and chaotic are our capitalist societies, brands are associated with the stress of daily life but also with chaos that they represent, a constant war in which brands are bombarding people with information and we have to find the way to make our brains cope. Also this can be linked to the experience of eating in a fast food restaurant, the pressure of finding a place to sit, the stress of finding your way out because the restaurants doesn’t give enough space to take a rest while your eating. This are all situations that lead us to exhibit conditioned responses.

    Whatever the underlying process, I believe that each brand and category prompts different attitudes and emotions that shape the way in which we all behave. I wonder if my emotions are sometimes free of this influence, perhaps our emotional structure is now determined by all this information we are losing our identity and the way we behave depends on the brands we consume.

  2. My god, that’s an weird finding. I wished I had seen your blog post earlier, so I could have finished my blog more rapidly. It is amusing that we behave differently at the moment we are exposed to the brand logo. It is, as if we don’t have any control of us anymore. Eerie! Well, at least I think this effect only really works for the big brands such as McD, Apple and IBM and so on. The brands already caused a big imprint in our subconscious that we behave as we behave being exposed to the logo. Newer and smaller brands still have to work on that imprint! For them it is a long and costly process to get to that point.

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