Lessons from the KFC, Juvenile Diabetes Cause Marketing Fizzle

It's been an interesting week since I wrote my post on the cause marketing promotion between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I learned a lot, particularly about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I plan to put my new found education to good use in the coming months. But there are lessons for everyone from this cause marketing promotion.

For Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

  1. You can distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes all you want but many average Americans like me will - correctly or incorrectly - view a soda promotion to benefit kids with diabetes as the wrong type of cause marketing for a voluntary health organization. Even critics of my original post who hammered me day after day for my lack of knowledge of juvenile diabetes and strove to disconnect the genetic form of diabetes from sugary drinks conceded they would not have signed off on this promotion if they worked at KFC or JDRF. This Titanic should have never left port.
  2. Lost in the reports on this promotion, including mine, was that it involved one KFC location in Utah. JDRF reported that the franchise owner had a personal connection with Type 1 diabetes. This is just one example of how causes and companies have to monitor every partnership to make sure it passes the "smell test" - or in this case the taste test. Yes, even when they involve one store. Questionable programs - despite intentions - spread like a spilled mega jug on the internet and through social media networks.

For Kentucky Fried Chicken

  1. I hope KFC will review the recommendations Megan and I outlined for them in our last post. The main takeaway is that you need to disconnect your cause marketing from your menu. Donating money to health causes based on sales of fried chicken and soda is a recipe The Colonel would never have approved. There are many good ways for fast serve restaurants to support causes. You needn't look any further than McDonald's program for Ronald McDonald House Charities, White Castles work on behalf of Autism Speaks and Popeye's coupon book to benefit MDA. Also check out the program Wendy's is running this Father's Day weekend to fund adoptions.

Note to both both KFC and JDRF: The goal of cause marketing is to increase the favorability of both brands with their respective target audiences. Where ever you come down on whether this promotion was good or bad, right or wrong, surely there are better ways to achieve your goals than a "mega jug" promotion for kids with diabetes.

For Selfishgiving.com

  1. This has been both a good and bad week. It's been good because so many people have visited my blog and I got so many comments here and at The Huffington Post. Folks, that's what every blogger lives for! But it's been bad because my post was a catalyst for so many nasty and mean comments that had nothing to do with cause marketing or evaluating the merits or drawbacks of this promotion. I guess the ancients were correct: The gods sell all things at a fair price. I'm looking forward to better conversations, albeit with fewer readers. The next time this happens I'll be better prepared.
  2. The whole debate--and some of the questions people had about the accuracy of my post--got me thinking more about my responsibilities as a blogger. I do research my posts, but not as much as a journalist would. I don't consider myself a journalist. I'm a blogger. This means when I write I'm biased and have a personal perspective on my topic. Beyond cause marketing advice, I certainly don't claim to be a source of news and information on anything else, particularly diabetes as some commentators claimed I should be. I guess I feel that my readers have to tolerate a lower standard of reporting because I just write a blog. But being timely, engaging and provocative without being accurate, professional and responsible is not a recipe for success. I wouldn't want anyone to say the stuff I'm serving is worse than Kentucky Fried Chicken's cause marketing.

KFC Shows They Don't Give a Cluck. This Time with Juvenile Diabetes


I just can't understand what Kentucky Fried Chicken is thinking with its latest cause marketing program. This picture says it all. Buy a HALF-GALLON of soda - with 800 calories from 56 spoonfuls of sugar - for $2.99 and a buck goes to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

I'm actually more astonished that JDRF would sign on for such a pact. KFC showed it's a bird of a different feather last year with Buckets for the Cure and the dreadful Double Down. It's no surprise to me that they deep fried their reputation again, covering it with a disgusting, unappealing exterior that few can digest.

But JDRF should have known better. I Googled the partnership and some Dallas KFC's were selling JDRF's signature sneaker pinups, which seems a more appropriate venture as it's not directly connected to KFC's menu.

I've said this before: I don't have a problem with nonprofits and fast-serve chains doing cause marketing. What I do have a problem with is when fast serve chains like KFC encourage consumers to buy products that directly contribute to the health conditions - in this case diabetes - they are supposedly trying to prevent by partnering with the cause in the first place.

It's like if Philip Morris partnered with Smokey the Bear and donated a portion of all cigarette sales to conservation groups working to stop wildfires - fires that are sometimes started by careless smokers!

It's simply that ridiculous!

What was JDRF thinking? I'm not sure, but I'm calling them today to see if I can find out!

[Update 6/11/11: JDRF emailed me a response to my blog post and gave me permission to post it on my blog. See the comments section.]