Mascot Madness : Blog Of The Nation Parents are questioning the impact mascots for food companies have on their kids-- especially Ronald McDonald. But will banning the clown stop kids from chowing down?
NPR logo Mascot Madness

Mascot Madness

Mascots -- they're memorable...they're fun-loving...and they're just as -- or maybe possibly more -- effective in promoting a brand or team than a jingle. The Butler Bulldog and Duke Blue Devil will be all over your TV screen tonight for the NCAA Mens' national championship game, helping you cheer on whichever side you choose. But the recent buzz around more popular mascots hasn't been so favorable.

Josh Kurp of Nerve Blog reports,

"According to a survey released by Corporate Accountability International, forty-seven percent of Americans want McDonald's to retire their longtime mascot, Ronald. Many are anti-Ronald because they claim he appeals to kids and so causes childhood obesity."

Kurp also considers the impact of other mascots on kids. From Chester the Cheetah ("...he's more drug dealer/pimp than a snack-food-selling jungle cat") to the Trix Rabbit (..."but he's been trying to steal cereal (from children!) since 1954.), he says these mascots have gotta go.

Before you decide to yank the TV out of your child's room, let's get back to Ronald for a second. Yes, children relate the clown emblazoned in red, white, and yellow with rather unhealthy food (and according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan, making that connection is a sign of intelligence). But an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune says parents are to blame.

Preteen kids don't drive themselves to McDonald's. They don't splurge on extra large fries while their parents nibble on carrot sticks.

When the kids clamor for too many trips to McDonald's or Burger King or any other fast-food emporium, parents can steer them to healthier diets with one word: No.

When that word is enforced it is effective, oh, 100 percent of the time.

As I passed by a Ronald McDonald statue and took a long hard look at the people in the McDonald's, a similar thought crossed my mind. Retiring the "Chief Happiness Officer" may not necessarily solve the problem.