Responsible or not? Doritos marketing to kids

Doritos provided the following word search bookmark in school cafeterias:

Doritos word search
At the top, it says “Find the seven words hidden below that can lead you to a healthy day.” There are actually eight words, the first word on the list is “Doritos.”

Three questions:

  1. Is Doritos telling kids that their product is part of a healthy diet?
  2. Should they be allowed to hand out information like this in schools?
  3. Is Doritos marketing to schoolchildren responsible or not?

Comment below to weigh in.

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The inspiration image for this post came from The Corporate Babysitter.

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Thanks for putting this out there! That kind of advertising has been going on in north america for a while and it makes me angry!!!
    Lying or subconciously misguiding consumers is one thing, attempting to change kids’ eating habits with one of the least nutrious food makes me angry. REALLY angry.

  • Sadly, yes, it falsely insinuates that Doritos are a healthy choice. There are many who would argue this, and it would be extremely difficult to prove in a court of law.

    The fact of the matter is, they suggest Doritos ‘can lead you to a healthy day’.

    It would be viewed in it’s proper context had your local crack cocaine dealer been the one to provide the puzzle…

    ‘can lead you to a healthy day’?

    Doritos is providing them with a puzzle that leads us to other healthy ‘words’. Which, ultimately, is whitewashing.

    Boo. On. Them.

    Kimberly Bock

  • Lissa Boles says:

    Yes, the message is Doritos are healthy (its subtext, but its there).

    Responsible? I think not.

    No, its not okay that marketing messages like this are in schools. I think excluding all marketing messages is impossible (they wear ’em on their clothes, their phones, their eye-wear). But a school is a place of learning, and if a marketing message that attempts to associate itself with LEARNING actually teaches kids faulty information, including its okay to irresponsibly use persuasion tactics to entrain the undefended to become a life-long consumer (never mind the faulty self-care habits/beliefs you’re planting in young minds), it just shouldn’t get through the door.

    And teachers, the marketers of this product are the only ones demonstrating irresponsibility here…

    At the risk of seeming like a rabid fan (okay – truths out – I am) its stuff like this that makes me love Seth Godin’s latest book Tribes even more.

    He recognizes that marketers are leaders – LEADERS – and the best of them seek to evangelize a message meant to improve the world in some meaningful, unique and exceptional way (via marketing) while generating a meaningful (but honorable) profit.

    If you use the question, ‘Does this REALLY improve the world?” as a litmus test, it fast becomes clear this campaign is less about serving the world and more about the manufacturer serving its own bottom line at the expense of our kids.

    And few things are more irresponsible than that.

  • As a mother, I was shocked when my son started bringing home ads for junk food from school. I had read about it, of course, but the first time that my son brought home a Cheetos branded menu I was angry.

    But what do they do? Schools are scrambling for money, and it’s not like the apple industry is paying for huge marketing campaigns. Dorritos and friends show up and flash a wad of bills and it’s hard for schools to say no.

    As parents, we need to teach our kids how to read nutritional labels, how to plan good meals, and how to eat snack foods responsibly. We also need to show by example. This does not, of course, excuse the advertising.

  • Melissa Griswold says:

    I completely agree with Julie.

    Lissa, you mentioned the schools and teachers need to be teaching this, and I also agree, however as Julie mentioned, public schools are underfunded. In many states, they teach the bare minimum and have done away with things like art, music, and shop class. In addition, teachers are on strict schedule as to what they need to teach children and teaching them health isn’t a luxury they can afford. (My mom’s a 2nd grade teacher.)

    But back to the questions at hand:

    1. Of course Doritos is telling children that their chips are a part of a healthy diet.
    2. Should they be allowed to hand out this stuff in schools? No way. Mall? Convienence store? Sure, fine.
    3. And yes, I think marketing to school kids is irresponsible. However, from their marketing departments standpoint, it’s genius. Kids love chips, mom makes the purchasing decisions – if we market to mom, she’ll read the label and say “no way”, if we market to kids, kids run to mom in delight and pester her to buy until she gives in.

  • Kim N says:

    Julie Lynn Eberhart said just what was on my mind when I read it. I too have been surprised by the amount of advertising materials my kids have brought home from school, but I understand that most public schools do not have the money and supplies they need and these companies irresistible offers to schools who are scrambling to fund their needs.

    I would like to see more of these companies make donations to our school because they want children to get a good education and grow up and be good workers that might benefit their companies.

    I would love to see advertising completely removed from schools, but in order to do that we need to find other sources of funding for the schools.

  • This particular piece of advertising from Doritos is no different from the TV ads for sugary cereals often shown during children’s programs. Doritos wants to market its product, and it is far from being unique in its tactics in this case.

    Sure, it’s hard for schools to turn down the extra funding from these vendors. Some schools have already removed sodas from their campus. Instead, vending machines are selling bottled juice, even though a bottle of juice doesn’t contain much less sugar than a can of soda does. Are we to question the juice companies’ intention, because they’re somehow leading kids to think “juice = healthy”?

    What about the food served in school cafeterias? Many districts use a contracted lunch service, and most menu offerings are worse than a snack bag of Doritos.

    I realize I’ve veered off topic (marketing) here. My point is, when it comes to children and nutrition, there are many bigger concerns than this little Doritos word search flyer.

  • Go ahead and let the schools get paid.

    I use situations like this to further the REAL education of my kids.

    It’s a great opportunity to teach the kids about critical thinking and how to regard ALL public communication with a thoughtful and cautious attitude. The “Doritos =healthy” message is exactly the same pattern as the so-called news media stories or statements by senators and presidents. Let the kids lean to correctly interpret Newspeak; they’re going to need it in this world of “PATRIOT Act” that trashes liberty and “populist rage” that is written, staged, paid and performed by organizations with specific legislative agenda.

    Learning to decipher the message that “Doritos are healthy” is good practice for what we are all exposed to every day, posing as reality in the news and in the courthouse and in the capitol — “War is Peace,” “Ignorance is Strength,” “Oceana Was Always At War With Eurasia,”
    “The economic disaster was caused by unregulated Capitalism.”

    What I mean is that these little things like the Doritos bookmark are good opportunities to help kids learn to think as they read, and not to absorb what they are sprayed with as though it were true.

    I’d use this not only to teach critical thinking and self-responsibility, but also to teach about marketing and persuasion methods. “Isn’t that clever of that company?” I’d tell my kids. “They are trying to make kids think that eating poisoned, fried mush is healthy — maybe even some stupid parents fall for it! Isn’t that brilliant?”

    But then, I’m cynical.

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