In this case, the "brand" was Elmo. Researcher Brian Wansink wondered if Elmo stickers would make foods more appealing to kids.
Wansink and his team observed 208 children ages 8 to 11 as they ate lunch on five consecutive days. Each day the kids could choose an apple or a cookie (or both). On the first day, they were offered "unbranded" cookies and apples without Elmo stickers, so researchers could see their baseline choices. For the next three days, researchers offered cookies and apples with or without Elmo or another cartoon character the kids didn't know. The last day, the cookies and apples were again sticker-free to determine if the effect lasted.
There was very little difference in the number of children who chose the cookies with the Elmo sticker versus the number who chose the unbranded package. But Wansink says he was surprised at the impact the Elmo sticker had on kids' apple decisions - more than double chose to take the branded fruit. And that healthy effect lasted through the weekend.
"This study suggests that the use of branding or appealing branded characters may benefit healthier foods more than indulgent, more highly processed foods," the authors wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine journal.
Now if we could just figure out how to get that furry red face on some broccoli!
Image: Elmo via CNN.com