A healthy dose of nonsense
It’s hard to know what’s more ridiculous - the wholesale butchering of the English language or the suggestion that buckets of deep fried chicken are good for you.
KFC’s ‘‘Goodification’’ advertising campaign, in which the fast food giant claims to be ‘‘on a mission to goodify everything we do’’ would be laughable if it weren’t for the gravity of our obesity epidemic.
Are we really to believe that a serve of greasy chicken packing 26 grams of fat - almost half the recommended daily intake - is a good choice?
It seems KFC is trying to overhaul its image at a time when health-conscious consumers are increasingly looking for more wholesome options.
As the global obesity problem sees waistlines bulge and rates of chronic disease skyrocket, the junk food industry is being forced to get creative.
They know that spruiking their fatty, highly processed products as healthy is a bit of a stretch but by appropriating the word ‘‘good’’ they invoke the feelgood factor.
On KFC’s website, the latest campaign is explained thus: ‘‘It’s the act of goodifying. You simply take a good thing, emgooden it and voila, you’ve made it gooderer as in, that’s the gooderest thing I’ve ever tasted.’’
I’m confused. Are they on a mission to sell us more chicken or make us more stupid? Or should that be stupider?
This ‘‘goodifcation’’ revolution also includes an advert promoting the fast food chain’s ‘‘goodest get together’’ competition where the prize is having 100 Facebook friends flown in from around the world for a huge party.
The TV advert shows the winner, a young slim and attractive woman glammed up with her equally fabulous and predominantly slim pals at a swish shindig as they sit down to guzzle a ‘‘silver service’’ meal of fried chicken. ‘‘To me mateship is a way of life,’’ the winner proclaims. Because nothing says friendship quite like buckets of deep fried chicken and gravy.
It’s smoke and mirrors from an industry in desperate need of an image makeover. We saw the same desperation from McDonalds last month when they aired a self-funded documentary on Channel Seven, seeking to improve public perceptions of the brand amid declining sales.
Hit documentaries like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me have been a public relations nightmare for the burger chain. I imagine it was a long time before many of their customers could face a Big Mac after watching filmmaker Morgan Spurlock vomit up his lunch in spectacular fashion during a 30 day experiment in which he ate nothing but McDonalds food, gaining 11 kilos and dangerously high cholesterol levels and fat around his liver.
To counter this bad publicity, some fast food chains are getting into bed with health and fitness organisations. We’ve seen KFC team up with breast cancer charity the McGrath Foundation, Nestle acquire Jenny Craig, McDonald's link up with Weight Watchers, and Domino's Pizza sponsor weight-loss show The Biggest Loser.
It’s led to claims from public health lobby group The Obesity Policy Coalition that these companies are cashing in on both ends of our weight problem by making their customers fat then selling them the cure. It’s a practice they've dubbed "weightwashing'' - a tactic to persuade consumers the industry is responding to the obesity epidemic, in the same way that ‘‘greenwashing’’ allows businesses to appear environmentally responsible.
Of course, one of the best ways to make your brand appear healthy is to align it with the nation’s sporting heroes. When our elite athletes head to the London Olympics in July they'll be able to enjoy dining at McDonalds, which is the "official restaurant" of the Games, with a dedicated outlet in the Athletes Village - an incongruous association that has left doctors flabbergasted. At home, things are no different. If Hungry Jacks’ Whopper is the ‘‘official burger of the AFL’’ - a sport requiring peak physical fitness - that’s got to be a healthy choice right? And when Australian cricket team captain Michael Clarke has KFC emblazoned on the front of his shirt that must be worth its weight in gold in the ‘‘goodification’’ stakes.
The industry insists they want to be part of the obesity solution, reformulating some products to reduce levels of salt, sugar and fat, and indeed fast food chains are starting to diversify and provide more healthy options next to the burgers and fries.
But you have to wonder if it’s more of a token gesture to appease the fat police than a genuine attempt to improve the nutritional standard of their products.
Over the last few years I’ve asked several major fast food companies - or ‘‘quick service restaurants’’as they prefer - for information on what percentage of their business healthy options represent but each time I’ve been told those figures are unavailable.
I suspect this means it’s a very small percentage. Who goes to McDonalds to eat a salad?
Junk food chains are selling legal products, and however nutritionally poor they may be, they should be free to continue to do so.
Likewise, consumers have the right to choose what they eat and how much of it. I’d just like to see more transparency and honesty from the industry.
Don’t try and "goodify" products that, like it or not, are major contributors to our public health burden.
Instead, perhaps the major chains could take a leaf out of Pizza Hut’s book and celebrate their gut-busting wares for what they are.
The global pizza chain recently launched in its British stores a 2700 calories ‘‘pizza dog’’ - which Time magazine described as a ‘‘caloric coma.’’
Pizza Hut spruiked it as ‘‘succulent hot dog sausage bursting from our famous stuffed crust.’’ Yep, it’s a hot dog shoved into a pizza crust.
It might not be to everyone’s taste, it may even be the stupiderest thing you’ve ever heard, but at least they’re not trying to pass it off as something it’s not.