Media Hype and Corporate Health Ads are Finger Lickin' Bad for Business

August 18th, 2010 10:15 AM

Colonel Sanders is rolling over in his grave.

An August 17 New York Daily News story reported that KFC’s second quarter sales fell 7 percent. The reason? According to KFC franchise owners, KFC”s recent marketing strategy of promoting grilled chicken instead of their signature fried chicken is hurting sales.

Essentially, customers don’t want the healthier grilled chicken; they want the fattier fried chicken.

Furthermore, on August 12 Bloomberg Businessweek reported the KFC National Council & Advertising Cooperative, a group representing KFC franchisees, attempted to sue KFC so they could have a say in the marketing campaign. Additionally, the Bloomberg story noted a survey of 642 KFC franchises revealed 50 percent of the franchises’ grilled chicken ended up being thrown away.

KFC isn’t the only fast food company struggling with promoting healthier food. According to the Wall Street Journal, Wendy’s/Arby’s second quarter earnings fell 28 percent even though Wendy’s has heavily marketed a new line of salads.

Consumers clear preference for fattier food hasn’t stopped the media health hype or their habit of attacking fast food industry menus. In an August 13 Health blog post, author David W. Freeman touted a report from scientists in England proposing fast food restaurants offer cholesterol drugs.

One bright spot was on the August 17 ABC ‘World News Tonight’ where reporter Yunji de Nies, notorious for criticizing the fast food industry, actually challenged media-beloved food cop Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest on KFC’s grilled chicken sales.

“We talked to franchise owners who they’re actually throwing away grilled chicken because nobody is buying it,” de Nies said.

“It [serving healthy food] may not work at KFC,” was Jacobson’s feeble response.

Unhealthy food drives up company profits yet the media continue spoon-feeding the idea that consumers want healthier food.