Confession: I have a box full of old McDonald’s happy meal toys. A treasure trove of assorted memories, popular culture, and just plain fun from my youth. I just can’t seem to part with them.
Now I’m a mother, and a few years ago I learned of the toddler line they also (without harmful small parts) offered for kids under 3. Similar to the popular trend toys for the older kids, they had fisher price little people mini vehicles, animals, and other assorted safe toys. Two years later, we still have the majority of them.
A little over a year ago this variety stopped. Instead, McDonald’s began releasing a long line of Ronald toys. A child version of Ronald as fireman, stackable toy, or sitting on a series of tub buoys. A set of vehicles with big bold Ms were also released all with the character as the main focus. Being in the market of branding I can see the appeal and it’s tempting to rationalize marketing to a young crowd, but I question the ethics of this.
It feels like my son, a toddler, is being recruited. Branding is about repetition, and he’s been getting the same consistent message for over a year. Great books have been written on the topic of youth branding and it’s effects. While I don’t think this will have some impact on my son’s self worth and image, this is a slippery slope I am not comfortable with.
Older kids aren’t subjected to this onslaught of Ronald repetition, they’d complain – they may even choose to not purchase the meal. The fact that toddlers can’t protest shouldn’t make them a target for this kind of campaign. So I’ll keep the old fisher price toys and in the trash go the Ronald toys. As a parent I choose to put up with his protests.
Do you think McDonald’s is justified or have they abused their position?
Branded, The buying and selling of teenagers. (A. Quart)