An advertisement for a trip to Hawaii in 2022

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that most preschoolers would think food tastes better if it comes in a McDonald’s wrapper. Or, so says a scientific study that made the newspapers this week.

The study, which offered children samples of the same food wrapped in plain or McDonald’s packaging, found that kids think even carrots and apple juice tastes better if the believe it comes from McDonald’s.

Don’t underestimate the power of advertising.

We see it in other ways, as well — how many of us routinely choose “name” brands of canned vegetables or soups, even though the cheaper store brands are often made by the same companies, but with a different label?

The outside package or package can have a tremendous influence on our perception of what we can expect on the inside.

That even works for churches, to some degree. Folks who grow up in a county seat, red brick church may be more inclined to look for the same thing when they move to another town. People who grew up in a small country church may feel lost if they move to the city, because they can’t find a church that looks like the one back home.

Denominational labels seem to be losing a bit of their power, however. There was a time when most Southern Baptists or United Methodists, for example, would automatically stick with the denomination of their youth. But, study after study shows that denominational loyalty has hit the skids: people are more likely to choose a church based on whether it really suits their taste or meets their needs, with little regard for labels.

For churches seeking to reach out to new people, that trend is both a challenge and an opportunity. A Baptist church can’t assume that all new Baptists moving to town will choose their church, for example, or even give it a try. On the other hand, it may have a better chance of attracting newcomers who grew up in different traditions … unless they’ve already been won over to the fast-growing nondenominational church on the outskirts of town.

I have to wonder what would happen if McDonald’s franchises divided into factions and went into competition with each other, criticizing other McDonald’s stores as being too liberal with the salt or too slow to change the french fry oil?

Think it might impact the power of the label?

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