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Fast Food Food Stamps, Booze on the Burger King Menu and Other Marketing Mistakes

By (view all posts by pmiller)
at 10:54AM Thursday July 7, 2011
under Newsworthy

Photo courtesy of Ted Murphy, via Flickr

Last week, blogger Allegra clued us into KFC's misguided attempt to do something nice: selling huge sodas for a diabetes charity. Needless to say, their move did not not create the desired reaction, and laughs were had by (nearly) all.

Well, it's another week, and the trend continues as various purveyors of junk foods run afoul of the media. Read on to discover my personal favorites.
Fast Food Food Stamps

Food stamps (known as "SNAP" which stands for "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program") are now being used in Michigan, Arizona and California to purchase sustenance such as the Crunchwrap Supreme. Although it's a bit of a stretch to reconcile "nutrition" with fast food, famed fast food purveyors Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, etc.) are looking to expand their customer base from college students pulling all-nighters and the like to those receiving welfare benefits. They are currently lobbying the state of Kentucky to allow the use of food stamp benefits for fast food.  Somewhat ironically, the government Food and Nutrition Service touts SNAP as helping to "put healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month."

Have it Your Way: With Booze

As if burgers were not hard enough on the digestive tract already, several fast food chains have begun selling alcohol at a few locations--presumably to test out the concept before it goes national. The most notable restaurants on the list are Sonic and Burger King, the latter having opened up six Whopper Bars across the country.

While Sonic insists that the hard drinks will not be sold by drive-in or drive-thru, the prospect of faster, cheaper alcohol has plenty of critics livid. The charges range from encouraging drunk driving to making an unhealthy meal even worse. Only time will tell if the trend will expand--or if McDonald's will begin selling "A-Little-Bit-Too-Happy Meals."

Better Luck Sbarro

Also in the news, Consumer Reports has turned its eye to the major fast food chains, releasing its first taste-test survey for the restaurants. The major contenders--McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Taco Bell--were deemed to have "so-so service" and "uninspiring food." This may be hard for some readers to believe, especially the countless numbers who turn to Taco Bell for "inspiration."

However, smaller chains like Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A fared much better. Southern California's own In-N-Out Burger was the decided winner, earning a number-one ranking in every category--including taste, service and value.

Too Soon, Entenmann's

Entenmann's might not be a purveyor of fast food, per se, but it's junky enough to make the list. Also, this story is worth it: After the controversial verdict of the Casey Anthony trial, the hashtag "#notguilty" was trending on Twitter. Then, some distracted social media intern decided to include it in an official tweet from the company. The result was a phenomenal PR fail with a tone-deaf tweet from Entenmann's: "Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!"

They have since apologized, repeatedly, and deleted the offending tweet. This further solidifies Twitter's place as the hip, go-to social network for publicly shaming yourself.

Would You Like Fries with that Salt?

Most of us are aware that processed food contains too much salt. But most of us would be surprised to learn the results of study published Tuesday: Excess salt is bad, and just cutting back isn't enough. A fair question to ask is: If we need to eat less salt, why can't we just choose to eat less salt? After surveying multiple studies with over 6,000 participants, researchers discovered that those who cut salt frequently went back to eating too much. Also, the level of salt in processed food is so high that, for many, it's hard to feel satisfied without also getting too much sodium in the process.

Fast-food chains aren't making it any easier. For example, a meal at Pizza Hut might contain twice the daily allowance of sodium for an adult. Fortunately, if you eat only one meal every two days, you're probably getting the right amount.

Have your own favorite fast-food PR flubs? Care to sing the praises of In-N-Out Burger? Do you work for a PR company and want to troll me? Let me know in the comments.