Jennifer Aaker, Professor of Marketing at Stanford University, talks about the power of authenticity in connecting brands with their audiences. She claims that the key to building authenticity is to combine what you believe in with your business model and communicate it organically and consistently in order to accrue goodwill. She cites an example of a Whirlpool campaign where the company donated a large sum of money, internal resources and appliances to the Habitat for Humanity organization. The result was a 47% increase in sales over the 4-week period following the release of the campaign. That’s a pretty stellar ROI.
Whirlpool increased their brand equity and sales by aligning their corporate goals with a prosocial initiative that added to their story. And so it goes, the opposite effect will happen when brands align themselves with initiatives that dilute their story. A perfect example of this is the recent partnership between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The “Buckets for the Cure” Campaign sends a very clear message from the Komen Foundation that they don’t care who creates the problem, as long as they’ll pay up to help solve it. I wonder if the American Lung Association would be as equally open to sponsored campaigns by the major cigarette manufacturers?
From KFC’s perspective, the message is a tad more convoluted. Do they win from this initiative to help save women’s lives from breast cancer while killing them with obesity and heart disease? Although there are no clear numbers to point to yet, media sentiment and public mockery of the campaign would suggest that it certainly hasn’t helped them. While health hazardous companies have often aligned with pro health brands in the past (such as McDonald’s sponsoring the Olympics), there seems to be a very tangible and visceral connection between buying a bucket of deep fried chicken with the intention of preventing breast cancer that’s highly inauthentic and an insult to consumer intelligence.
Maya Angelou suggested that people may not remember what you say or what you do, but they will remember how you make them feel. So if you were to buy a bucket of chicken (weighing in at almost 1800 calories and 100 grams of fat) with a side of fries and potato salad for dinner, would you feel better about it if there was a pink breast cancer label on it?
Note: The calories listed are approximations based on the nutritional guidelines on the KFC website for fried chicken which represents approximately 70% of their sales. Although the pick buckets are promoted with “grilled chicken”, donations are based on the buckets sold, and not the type of chicken ordered.