The Mechanics of Modern-Day Brand Affinity

​​​ — Ford Motor Co. is taking an assembly-line approach to building brand affinity, starting by researching the habits and preferences of the next generation of drivers long before they get behind the wheel.

Research shows that brand preferences are shaped at a young age: Children as young as 3 years old use brands as indicators of popularity or success, and 3- to 5-year-olds are able to identify logos and associate them with brands, even brands that don’t directly target kids, according to “Children’s Brand Symbolism Understanding,” a study published in 2010 in the journal Psychology & Marketing.

“People like things that are familiar to them. The same is true for brands,” says Anna McAlister, co-author of the study, and an assistant professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. “If you’ve seen a logo repeatedly as a child, you’ll be more likely to try it when you’re an adult. After years of being exposed to a brand and laughing at their ads or thinking their ads are cute, there will be a deep-seated preference for that brand.”

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