Exposure to digital marketing enhances young adults’ interest in energy drinks: An exploratory investigation
Young adults experience faster weight gain and consume more unhealthy food than any other age groups. The impact of online food marketing on “digital native” young adults is unclear.
This study examined the effects of online marketing on young adults’ consumption behaviours, using energy drinks as a case example.
The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion was used as the theoretical basis. A pre-test post-test experimental research design was adopted using mixed-methods. Participants (aged 18–24) were randomly assigned to control or experimental groups (N = 30 each). Experimental group participants’ attitudes towards and intended purchase and consumption of energy drinks were examined via surveys and semi-structured interviews after their exposure to two popular energy drink brands’ websites and social media sites (exposure time 8 minutes). Exposure to digital marketing contents of energy drinks improved the experimental group participants’ attitudes towards and purchase and consumption intention of energy drinks.
This study indicates the influential power of unhealthy online marketing on cognitively mature young adults. This study draws public health attentions to young adults, who to date have been less of a focus of researchers but are influenced by online food advertising.
With the greater interactions of young people with online environments and social media, it is important to understand how young people’s consumption patterns and health behaviours may be affected. This study provides useful insights into the online environment that may contribute to unhealthy behaviours of young adults.
Greater understanding of the types of cues and their influences on young adults’ attitudes and potentially also their behaviours can inform professional practice and regulatory policies relating to online environments.