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There's A New Approach To Getting Kids To Drink More Water

Just as our cars need gas to run and oil to keep parts in working order, our bodies need water. Staying properly hydrated is key to our health, yet many of us don't actually consume the recommended eight glasses a day.

Recently faculty from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and UNICEF joined forces to learn how to better "market" drinking water to children. After all, if we can instill the importance of water at an early age, maybe the world won't require so many reminders of our need to drink it in the future.

It does sound a little funny, the idea that marketing pros need to research how to get kids to drink more water just as the manufacturers of sugar cereals and junk foods are also vying for their attention, but water is a key component to health and fighting the battle against childhood obesity.

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Michal Maimaran, who serves as both a clinical and research associate professor of marketing at the university, came up with some research tactics alongside her colleagues and UNICEF to find out what would make water more appealing to kids. They decided to create posters that associated drinking water with three things that are important to children -- being healthy, smart, or popular.

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The various posters were placed around private schools in Panama, with food and drink kiosks in each establish keeping track of how many bottles of water they sold before the adverts were hung, during, and after they were taken away.

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What they found was interesting and proves kids are pretty savvy in regards to marketing and advertising. When the posters that associated drinking water with health and being good at sports, water sales increased by about eight bottles per day. It seemed to appeal to kids because the connection makes sense -- of course being hydrated and drinking water could help drive you to score that extra goal in soccer.

But the posters that associated drinking water with doing well in school, kids weren't as persuaded, because the link didn't seem as natural. Water sales remained the same. And when the drinking water helps you make friends adverts covered the walls, sales actually went down, because, well, that doesn't make an sense at all. Maimaran and her colleagues felt this was because kids could see deception in the advertising. How can water possibly make you popular?

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In the end the researchers were encouraged by the uptick in water drinkers thanks to the posters that promoted it as a healthy beverage that can help achieve athletic goals. They plan to pursue more ways that this subtle messaging, using correlations to goals that make sense to kids, can get them to put down those sugary beverages and pick up a glass of H20.

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