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I don’t like to ‘tweet’ news headlines….

September 5, 2011

I do love twitter.  I love not only the access it gives me to people who I otherwise wouldn’t be able to connect with, but more so, I love the immediate connection it gives me to news stories as they are happening.  That said, I find the tweeting of news stories shortens what are already comically abbreviated news reports of quite possibly, remarkably complex situations.  One of our biggest handicaps in current society is the pre-digested news bite.  Things change slowly and science builds our knowledge of the world in a gradual and cumulative manner.  The odds of a provocative or definitive headline is nearly non-existant, but the shortness of the twitter blast allows very definitive statements that appear to be soundly based on science.  The most common version of this is the David Zinczenko style tweet:

A STRONGER HEART: Drink 5+ glasses of water a day to help lower heart disease risk, says Loma Linda U study.

Here is a tweet that shortens a story that talks about a study about heart disease risk and water consumption.  How was the study done, what do we know about this… absolutely nothing.  The headline is totally misguiding as well… A STRONGER HEART…  I am not going to go into detail on the Zinczenko style tweets here (I will do this a little later because it is important), but, instead, I am going to talk about a story about Burger King that I read this a little while ago involving them getting rid of the King as a marketing element.

There is a very important story embedded in this article.  It is at the end in fact:

“We’re re-igniting the latent feeling that people have about Burger King,” says Gordon Bowen, chief creative officer at McGarryBowen.

That won’t be easy. The chain’s same-store sales were down 6% in the first quarter, while McDonald’s were up nearly 3%, Technomic says.

When it comes to matters of perceived fast-food quality, Burger King not only lags behind McDonald’s but Subway and even KFC, says Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, which surveys consumers on preferences.

“There was a time when price value was king,” says Passikoff. “Now, healthy choice and quality drive the category.”

Yep, “Now, healthy choice and quality drive the category.”  This is really important-much more important than the ditching of the creepy king- not because it is a description of the current consumer desire (although that too is important), but what is more important is to realize that the companies that have followed those principles and gotten out in front of the consumer desire for this are the ones seeing significant profit.   The companies that were quick to respond to the clear desire for healthy choice are the ones that made money.

So, while many of the fast food chains have added triple burgers and massive 2000 calorie meals, those that embraced healthy choices responded to consumer demand and made money.  While many bloggers and fitness experts have long begged fast food restaurants to include healthy choices on their menu, we keep hearing the response that these people are getting in the way of the fast food companies, getting in the way of choice, getting in the way of business, but the truth is quite different.  People as ridiculous as Rush Limbaugh (oh, who am I kidding, there aren’t people as ridiculous as Rush Limbaugh, he is out there on his own) refer to those who request the change as food Nazi’s.  But this really is part of a black and white, us and them, scapegoat world that many people try to create.  One where Nanny State Politics and Food Nazis are battling it out with evil corporations preying on our addictions.  The reality is actually nothing like this.

Corporations are just money driven engines staffed by very smart people.  They find what works and stick with it.  Large corporations tend to continue in one direction and fight change (Mcdonalds has been an exception to this rule, always adding new menu items and testing their products in the market, with some funny results).  Fast food corporations, like many corporations, are slow to understand market changes, as is clearly shown in this article above.  It costs a lot of money to make change, and it can cost a corporation its business to either guess the wrong future or dilute their corporate identity by investing in several futures.  These aren’t trivial decisions and they aren’t made out of malice.

When I speak of recommendations for fast food companies I am only suggesting things that will be healthy choices, and as such will make it infinitely more likely that I will enjoy eating in their establishments and proud to take my kids.  I eat at McDonald’s and Burger King and I love them both for their different tastes, but unfortunately because their meals are generally so unhealthy, I don’t eat their very often at all anymore.  For me to eat a meal under 500 calories I can’t eat many of the foods I enjoy and I have to bastardize their menu and make enough changes that I begin to feel like that person who takes 15 minutes to order their coffee at Starbucks…   I care about my weight and I cannot afford to eat fast food as much as I would like.  It is sad, but I like the way I look in a mirror now and giving that up isn’t worth it.  I do eat chicken skewers at Vietnamese restaurants and stir fried beef and veggies at japanese fast food outlets.  These are remarkably healthy and tasty food choices that are available at most food fairs.  I can rock a food fair…

I would very much enjoy it if I wasn’t as limited in my healthy fast food choices and it is because of this that I offer my advice to these chains.  I hope they take my help with the positive intent that it is given.  I look forward to seeing how Burger King moves forward with healthier choices.  I truly hope it is a case of actual healthy choices and not just healthy branding, the strategy used by the morally bankrupt Kellogg’s and General Mills companies.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2011 12:02 pm

    I liked the whole of your post and am reminded of a quote from the movie Food Inc. I can’t remember it exactly but the jist was that every dollar we spend is a vote, a vote in the direction of our food industry. If it is on unhealthy processed crap, thats where the companies will invest more time and research. If it is in whole foods, or minimally processed products with respectable ingredients then thats where companies will head.

    However to paint a positive light on McDonalds for jumping on the healthy choice bandwagon but then call out General Mills as morally bankrupt, I have to disagree. McDonald’s has still made some healthy branding moves without truly improving their products and General Mills produces respectable products as well and has been for years. I’d like to reference a Jillian Michael’s podcast about her recent visit with General Mills. It’s number 29 titled Jillian & General Mills. I know she is not one of your favorite people due to supplement support and I too have lost a little faith in her for that but her podcasts are genuinely good stuff in my opinion. Anyways, General Mills is like any other corporation, when they saw organics rising, they acquired an organic product company. They’ve been secretly lowering sodium and sugar in their products. They put out healthy affordable cereals like plain Cheerios, but if Fruit Loops is a money maker they’re not dumb, it’ll stay on the market. They are working to find natural ways to replace food dyes in the rainbow cereals. I’m not saying their heroes in the food industry, and I’m sure they’ve used advertising to their advantage but so has McDonald’s.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      September 8, 2011 12:35 pm

      Thank you very much for the comment and you are 100% right… I think I only added that comment about General Mills because I was watching a commercial at the time where they were portraying their Honey Nut Cheerios as being heart healthy because in some study oat bran had been shown to reduce cholesterol (the logical leaps and bounds you have to get from one to the other is such a perversion of logic it is astounding). That ad makes me furious! Kellogg’s I am sure has some healthy food choices as does General Mills, but right now both of them are on my radar for health washing clearly unhealthy products. McDonalds targets children in their advertising and makes their restaurants look like kid’s birthday parties, they support amateur sport as if that makes their products seem healthy. They are far from a paragon of good citizenship. So thank you for not letting my overly generous description of them slide.
      I have already listened to that podcast and I enjoyed it. The thing is though, I don’t have a problem with Froot Loops or some of the chemical dyes. I like a bowl now and again (of Froot Loops). I have a problem with Kellogg’s marketing the Froot Loops as a healthy food choice and an excellent way for kids to get their fibre… I think 90 times out of 100 my problem is marketing because in North America, marketing is allowed to essentially lie. In both Great Britain (as evidenced by the ban on the touched up images of celebrities advertising rejuvenating face creams) and New Zealand (as evidenced by the ban on the Ab Circle Pro Ad for its unrealistic portrayal of weight loss), they have standards councils that review ads. I don’t see that as a bad thing as long as the process is transparent.

      • September 8, 2011 2:49 pm

        Completely agree! Marketing is by far the hardest thing to overcome and muddle through when trying to decipher what is healthy and what is not. As Michael Pollan has referenced in several of his books, if the package is making a healthy claim, it’s probably not a great product. You don’t see apples touting their endless positive health consequences! And thats not to say that a sugary cereal is completely off limits, moderation in everything is key. But when you trick people into thinking things are healthy when they aren’t, they will inevitably eat more of it than fits into a truly healthy diet. Sad that the we don’t have councils like those in Great Britain and New Zealand to help protect consumers here.

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