McDonald’s Survives Children Targeted Marketing: Is it Ethical Tough

McDonald’s, like any other food industry firm operating in highly competitive business environment, developed strategies to target one of their customer segments- children. High competition and increased rivalry with companies such as Hungry Jacks have resulted to review the company’s strategies to include a marketing strategy which targets children. This has however led to the question on whether marketing targeted at children is ethical.  Some argue that the firm has developed a unique and genius marketing strategy which secures them to have a competitive edge.

Need for a Competitive Edge

As illustrated by Goi (2005), having a competitive edge is a critical element for the survival of firms especially in highly competitive markets as the one that McDonald’s exists in. They have undertaken a different strategy from that of targeting their customers – using low cost strategies and targeting children to increase their market share and revenues.

Their marketing strategies can be illustrated by the following images, focused on attracting the children to visits their shops and enjoy their products and services.


A clown attracting children to a McDonald’s Store


 Toys for children with Happy Meal

If there is something we know about children, they can be easily manipulated. Psychologists agree with this contention and we have all at one time or another utilized manipulation to children to achieve some goal. Be it the manipulation of a child to eat by promising a milkshake or ice-cream after dinner to marketing strategies such as the one used by McDonald’s.

The question however is if this is unethical or just smart marketing

Marketing Aim should not override Ethical Practices

The main objective of marketing is that of pursuing and attracting individuals into a consumption trend and lifestyle with marketers in the recent past utilizing all forms of marketing campaigns and targeting strategy which enable them to have an edge over their competitors. A recent strategy by marketers is based on the realization that children have huge influence on their parents and are a factor in the shopping decision making process for their parents.

When we were children all we wanted to do was go to stores which are fun and offer products and services for playing.This is no different for the children of today. Despite the perception that targeting children in unethical, there are those who hold that the children revolving customers as illustrated by Professor Sharon Beder. She argues that marketers recognize and invest in the children as the habits formed in childhood will be carried into adult hood and are such the future consumers.

Just like the targeting, positioning and segmentation undertaken in media adverts through TVs, internet and stores, children are and have been targeted by many marketers. As such McDonald’s marketing strategy of targeting children can be argued to be unique and smart.

There is an ethical dilemma on junk food marketing for children. There are those who are convinced that it is purely unethical. Henriquez and Russel state that nothing can justify food marketing to kids.This is mainly based on the fact that children may not have the ability to understand the intent of the advertisers and as such can be argued to be easily manipulated by it. Children may not have that understanding until at a later age and this agreement direct to the conclusion that advertising and targeting children is unethical up to a certain age.

No matter what our perception on McDonald’s is, as parents, people have the most important role in ensuring that our children are protected from corporations whose only interests may be profit making and hence make decisions with our children’s best interests in mind. Despite their ability to escape regulations and contention prevailing about their ethicality, we still have a role in order to keep such entities from harming our children and the future generation.



Beckwith, H. (2001). The Invisible Touch – The Four Keys of Modern Marketing. Texere Publishing.

Goi, C. L. (2005). Marketing Mix: A Review of ‘P’. Journal of Internet Banking and Commence, 10.

Henriquez, M., and Russel, E., (2015), Is Woolworth’s targeting strategy Genius or Unethical?,

KIRAN BUNGLA-211696223


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