christine is not jared

Way back in the “early oughts”, Pepsico / Tricon (now known as Yum!) employed Jason “george costanza” Alexander to make the pitch that Kentucky FRIED Chicken was diet food. It was attacked as a stupid outrageous advertising campaign and was quietly shelved.

But just because a stupid idea didn’t work doesn’t mean the same company can’t try it again a few years later.

Here in 2010, Yum! is trying to get me to go on the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet. The most striking thing is how the disclaimers outweigh the copy on the ads. It’s like talking to Mr. Subliminal:

  • Try the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet! (not a weight loss plan)
  • I lost weight! (results are not typical)
  • Fresco is a healthier choice! (not a low calorie food.)

Rule of thumb: If you have more in the disclaimer than in the ad, then maybe it’s not a great promotion idea.

Companies almost always have cricks in their necks from looking at what the competition is doing. I’m sure Yum! thought they had found their Subway Jared when they found the face of the Drive-Thru Diet, Christine, who said she lost 54 pounds by eating at Taco Bell.

But healthy is a part of the Subway brand. If a major part of your normal promotional campaigns involve trying to get people to eat another “Fourth Meal” or getting customers to add more nacho cheese, then you should stay away from the words “diet” and “healthy“.

A consistent long-term brand image that consumers can identify with (even if it’s unhealthy) is more important that a New Years resolution inspired revenue bump in Q1. Pick a strategy and go with it. You can’t have your nachos and eat them too.

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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