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Race, Marketing, & Markets / Publication Abstract

A qualitative assessment of US Black and Latino adolescents’ attitudes about targeted marketing of unhealthy food and beverages

Apr 28, 2019

Jennifer Harris, Willie Frazier III, Frances Fleming-Milici, Patrice Hubert, Gloriana Rodriguez-Arauz, Sonya Grier, Osei Appiah

Race, Marketing, & Markets
Vulnerable Communities


Food marketing targeted to Black and Latino adolescents primarily promotes energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and likely contributes to diet-related health disparities. Targeted marketing raises further public health concerns as Black and Latino youth are also exposed to greater amounts of unhealthy food marketing in the media and their communities. However, little is known about Black and Latino adolescents’ attitudes toward brands and marketing that target them directly. Focus groups with Black and Latino adolescents (N= 51) explored their attitudes toward targeted and non-targeted brands of food, beverages, and restaurants. Pile sorting activities using cards printed with targeted and non-targeted brand logos were used as an elicitation technique. Overall, participants indicated more positive attitudes about the targeted brands discussed in the focus groups than the non-targeted brands, and participants often described targeted brands as being for someone most like them. Some participants expressed appreciation for marketing that recognized “someone like them” as potential consumers, while others raised ethical issues regarding targeting of unhealthy foods. Participants’ strong affinity for targeted brands, and ambivalent attitudes about targeted marketing of unhealthy products, highlight an opportunity to increase awareness of food marketing targeting communities of color and address targeted marketing through countermarketing and grassroots advocacy campaigns.

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