Psychology and Marketing of Eating: Why Do We Eat the Way We Do?

The overwhelming amount of commercials, advertisements, and promotional campaigns that Americans are bombarded with is astronomical, to the point it is affecting their dietary habits. As the turn from a nomadic lifestyle switched to one with steady food supplies and surplus, history of mankind derailed and took an entirely different course, one that would later involve corporations utilizing marketing communications to influence their consumers. 

Food Marketing and Consumption

Stemming from during the pre-industrial age, where food was consumed locally, to now, a period where food is circulated across the globe, the marketing of foods have transformed. Available through Harvard’s Digital Access to Scholarship (DASH), — a database made of credible works of the Harvard community — Mario Moore, a past Harvard student, writes of the historic timeline of food regulations, touching on the impacts this had on the food marketing world. At the inception of the Industrial Age, when food was regulated, companies took advantage of the guidelines implemented and used them to push their own agenda. Moore mentions the regulations set in place to accentuate how corporations fail to be pragmatic as long as they follow the restrictions and guidelines. “For example, a maker of low sugar foods might seek to increase sales by overemphasizing the negatives effects of sugar consumption. As result, producer might be able to raise demand for their own products without producing any real benefit to the nutrition level of food consumers.” (Moore).  In turn, Americans and what they choose to eat will be affected because of how a corporation chooses to advertise a food. 

Food Advertising and Images

Even before mass media took over, old-school advertisements embellished their own products to make them more appealing to the market. An advertisement, taken from Duke’s Digital Repository but originally published in the Ladies Home Journal, titled “The Youngest Customers in the Business” depicting an image of a baby drinking Seven-Up with the aid of an adult exemplifies the progression advertisements have undergone from decades ago to current time. Despite the photo being marketed to Protestant families, the image still holds true to the entire time period itself. The photo, with its vast differences from modern day marketing, reveals the implications that may arise to consumers. Ideas that Seven-Up is healthy, although not specifically stated, may come up in attempt of the Seven-Up Company to glorify the drink. American diets, even that of infants, have been altered through promotional strategies to fit the needs of a company. 

Marketing, the Famous Arches, and Fast Food Franchises

The emergence of what would late grow to be the renowned golden arches of fast-food franchise McDonalds dates back to the 1940s with significant dates in the history’s company often correlating with marketing changes. The timeline of McDonalds, plotted on the company’s website, may be biased as the company will only announce positive things with the personal stake they have in the company; however, it is a primary source as it comes directly from the people at McDonalds. In 2003, “McDonald’s first global ad campaign, “I’m lovin’ it” is launched in Munich, Germany on September 2.” (History). From there, the advertising technique spiraled into a famous slogan. As the company evolved throughout time, what Americans consumed changed alongside it. In order to grow into a multi-billion dollar company, McDonalds used efficient marketing tools that would, overtime, restructure the fast-food industry and American diets. 

America’s food choices and dietary habits are molded by its exposure to marketing strategies set in place by food industries. The control they have had on diets throughout history, through the use of advertisements, shows the sweeping influence they have over America but to what extent? Are food industries running on the naivety of consumers that fall for their advertisements? Corporations using the power they have amassed throughout time as influential companies indicates that consumers are largely guided in their diets by what’s exposed to them, whether it be on a plate or a billboard. 

Works Cited

Arons, Marc de Swaan. “How Brands Were Born: A Brief History of Modern Marketing.” The   Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 Oct. 2011,

“History.” McDonald’s,

JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Food Marketing and Labeling.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 5 Aug. 2016, marketing takes many forms,the goal of promoting sales.

Moore, Mario. “Food Labeling Regulation: A Historical and Comparative Survey.” DASH Home, 2001,

“Youngest Customers in the Business. / Protestant Children and Families / Duke Digital    Repository.” Duke Digital Collections, Seven-Up Company, 9 Jan. 1955,

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