From Ricardo and Josée Di Stasio to Marilou and Geneviève O’Gleman, television and the Internet abound with public figures encouraging us to cook more often, eat healthy, or buy local. What impacts do these “human brands” have on our eating habits?

Amélie Guèvremont, a researcher in the Department of Marketing at ESG-UQAM, recently examined this question. For six months, she applied the “netnography” method, which consists of analyzing the interactions, comments and perceptions of consumers in virtual spaces. She scoured the websites of some of these human brands and several discussion forums. She also conducted about 15 one-on-one interviews, and an online survey of 501 people.

Combining all of these elements, she found that these brands do indeed have an impact on some of their followers’ eating habits. The most common is to adopt a healthier, more diverse diet. Another is the desire to learn to cook, to enjoy cooking more, or to cook more often.

These brands also influence the choice of local, fair trade or eco-friendly foods, in addition to fostering a better relationship with food and a healthier lifestyle. Finally, these effects can also extend to the follower’s entourage, as some people are encouraged to share these habits—for example, with their children—and to gather more often to cook and eat together.   

The researcher noted that the more authentic and accessible a human brand is perceived to be, the more influence it has on the habits of its followers. The same is true for brands that foster a sense of empowerment and competence by offering relatively simple recipes made with common ingredients.

This research adds to knowledge about the impact of human brands on behavioural change and the development of new eating habits, an area that has been little studied until now.