The concept of authenticity is tremendously important in public relations and marketing – ultimately, honesty and respect, and how you express that to your audience is the essence of authenticity and of the personal aspect of any brand. Every decision related to marketing authenticity should start with the question: “If I were the person on the other end looking at this, what would make me feel welcome and included?” Clearly Paula Deen has been oblivious to the concept of authenticity and trust – she’ll do whatever it takes to make money.
Deen, a celebrity chef has built her brand around fat-laden recipes – and today’s announcement that she has had Type 2 diabetes for about three years and has signed on to be the spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk AS, which makes diabetes drugs leaves many of us in the marketing world in shock. Obesity increases people's risk for Type 2 diabetes, and Novo Nordisk is now launching a marketing campaign around Ms. Dean and healthy recipes. Dean has built her brand around recipes like "Fried Butter Balls”, and "Deep-Fried Mac and Cheese", pushes cookbooks filled with fatty foods – and her brand is the definition of un-healthy foods according to countless medical experts. What’s next? Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan hosting Sesame Street? Philip Morris selling cancer drugs?
Marketing campaigns work best when they are authentic and consumers trust – which this campaign is the exact opposite of. I predict this will anger and confuse consumers. Will she continue selling her old recipes at the same time as hawking the new products she’s endorsing? Is Deen going to change all her shows and recipes – and if we listen, so was she wrong then or is she wrong now ?
A spokeswoman for Novo said it chose Ms. Deen because she "resonates with people" – and while she resonates with people and is well known, that doesn’t mean her brand will resonate with healthy eating. It’s the definition of hypocrisy. Anthony Bourdain, the Travel Channel's resident chef said today: "When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 diabetes ... it's in bad taste if nothing else." Of course, he previously called her our as "the worst, most dangerous person to America" because "she revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she's proud of the fact that her food is f***ing bad for you."
Bourdain may not have known just how right he was about the unholy connections. Shame on Paula Deen – and at least 1 PR firm owner, Ronn Torossian is asking Novo Nordisk what are you thinking? Is there no other way to get attention? Shame on Deen and shame on Novo Nordisk.