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Cause Gone Wrong – Komen Jumps the Shark

April 28, 2010

Well, color me pink but I am really upset with this country’s # 27th charity.

It appears I’m not alone.

For that matter, neither is Joe Waters.

And if Joe isn’t alone, neither is Scott Henderson.

You see, it was through Joe’s & Scott’s blogs that I first found out about the KFC & Susan G. Komen cause-marketing partnership.

And now… we’re not alone >>> the mainstream media has caught on.

Check out this CNN article discussing “activists calling foul” (annoying pun, yes) about KFC’s Buckets for the Cure.

If you haven’t heard – KFC is going to donate 50 cents for every pink bucket they sell. As of the time I write this article, they’ve raised nearly $2.4 million according to the microsite.

Good for breast cancer research.

Bad for Komen’s brand and for KFC, too.

I fear that Komen may have “jumped the shark.” For me at least.

I’m not going to rehash Joe’s and Scott’s blog posts that elegantly outline why this campaign is a bad idea. Both articles do an excellent job of describing the dissonance between the caloric intake of a bucket of fried chicken (2400 calories & 160 g of fat), KFC’s new calorie- & fat-laden double down sandwich (540 calories and nearly 1,400 grams of sodium) and the health consequences (specifically related to cancer) of a diet high in fat.

I will however talk about what could have been.

The program itself is brilliant. Take a visit at the site – you’ll find great information about breast cancer and great stories. The virtual pink bucket has user-submitted true-life stories of survivors and memorials. And if KFC is right, the program will yield the highest single-donation to Komen in history.

That’s great!

However, swing and a miss for KFC! Another swing and a miss for Komen!

I fear that Komen may have “jumped the shark.” For me at least.

Why didn’t KFC or Komen brand a different food item on KFC’s menu. Like say… a grilled chicken breast? Or a grilled chicken breast salad? Or hell, even a grilled buffalo skinless chicken part with dyed-pink buffalo sauce? Or a sandwich that can at least pretend, maybe if you squint,  it has some nutritional value? This could have brought out a new message to the market: that KFC isn’t just for folks who want to gorge. Funny thing, they very well could have won me over as a customer. But alas, McDonald’s here I come…

But instead, they went the easy route. It was just too tempting to go with the bucket, knowing that it would be a big seller.  And that’s why I disappointed in both parties. KFC is to blame, for sure. But they’re “just a company” to quote a sentiment.

But Komen…  as the one of the nation’s top charities, one of the most recognizable brands out there (including for-profit brands), and as a leader in cause-marketing… well, frankly, you should know better.

I hate to say it, but shame on you Komen.

Ugh… I feel like a grandfather.

Someone needs to tell Komen that, you know, it’s okay to say no.

It will be a great day for breast cancer research when and if KFC meets or exceeds its sales goals that will possibly raise over $8 million for this very important cause.

I, however, won’t be celebrating.


The author is the president of Do Well Do Good – a CSR & philanthropy consulting firm based in Chicago. (c) 2010.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2010 11:53 am

    Great summary and way to dig a little deeper on what could have or should been. It was such a whiff on both parties. Your idea re: a healthier food option…a breast, for God’s sake…should’ve been the first idea out of the KFC/Komen marketing machines. A bucket of chicken, really? A total disconnect. That’s why they’re getting flamed. For being out of touch and insensitive. Just a really stupid idea — that, despite it all, will probably more than achieve its objective of big $. So…they’ll feel like all is justified. But to the Komen/Breaded Fat relationships to come…think a little more on the next one. You can make cause marketing more than a cash grab with a little imagination.


  2. June 25, 2010 3:33 am

    The other point you miss. Komen’s continued shoveling of funds over to Planned Parenthood; the world’s largest provider of abortions. That fact alone represents the “biggest miss” for Komen. Disgusting how it can support killing of pre-born babies.

    These breast cancer groups DO NOT support abortion:

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