As healthy adult food brands rise in popularity, their next target will surely be children. Which begs the question, how do brands market healthy foods to children?  Healthy food marketing answers the call.

To answer this question, we need to take a look at the current state of marketing to children.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Companies continue to use a wide variety of techniques to reach young people, and marketing campaigns are heavily integrated, combining traditional media, Internet, digital marketing, packaging, and often using cross-promotions with popular movies or TV characters across all of these. Those techniques are highly effective.”

For young children, branding even trumps taste. Preschool children report that junk food in McDonald’s packaging taste better than food in plain wrapping—even if it’s the same food. Similar studies show the same results for food packaging featuring media characters.

It has been well established that telling kids that a certain food is good for them isn’t the route to go if you want them eating more fruits and vegetables. As child obesity rates escalate, we find ourselves stuck without an answer to the question “how do we get kids to eat healthier foods?

Some brands are finding that the way to go is to use those same tactics of the fast food industry that we usually frown upon.

Recently, a number of health-conscious brands joined forces to create an awareness campaign for Fruits & Veggies. Rebranded as FNV, the campaign recruited celebrities to get kids to eat more Fruits & Veggies.

It’s nice to see celebrities like Kristen Bell and Cindy Crawford choosing to promote healthier foods. However, brands and healthy food marketing should be careful not to use anyone associated with an unhealthy product. This could lead to consumers receiving mixed messages.

For healthy food brands to market themselves successfully, they need to avoid falling into the traps of our marketing past.

If a child sees a Disney princess promoting a sugary cereal and then a bag of carrots, what are they to think? Which princess is telling the truth? Using a similar marketing approach puts a healthy brand at risk for being confused with an unhealthy brand.

As someone who works in advertising, this challenge excites me. We are brand architects, and we have the opportunity to reinvent how we market healthy foods to children. We can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Healthy food marketing has the power to persuade children to eat right, and help solve our country’s childhood obesity epidemic. If that’s not an admirable goal, I don’t know what is.