Healthy options may not be the best strategy

Discerning and insightful as it was, Polly Devaney’s article on the declining sales of Coca-Cola (MW last week) did not examine the parallels with the fast food industry.

Discerning and insightful as it was, Polly Devaney’s article on the declining sales of Coca-Cola (MW last week) did not examine the parallels with the fast food industry.

Coke and Diet Coke face a similar conundrum: should they innovate and adapt to the current health trend, or should they aggressively promote their brands as “enjoyable” and “satisfying” – thus building on their strengths as opposed to cementing consumers’ doubts by acknowledging the unhealthiness of their products.

Classic examples of this is are the strategies used by rivals McDonalds and Burger King: while the former is attempting to conform by introducing healthier options and providing nutritional information online, the latter’s slogan emphasizes the purchaser’s “right” to its food – a kick in the face to its critics at a time when there is increasing government pressure over advertising to children.

The fast food chains have taken some positive action in response to the dual challenges of the health trend and rising concern over advertising to children. They have gradually started to move away from brand partnerships with companies such as Disney in favour of ones that connect with an older demographic, such as HP and BT Openzone, and give the chance of offering functional deals to customers.

Intricate to any brand are the values and consequent perceptions these generate from consumers. “Tasty”, “affordable” and “reliable” are the adjectives that come to mind for fast food; “healthy” does not. So expecting to revitalise sales of fast food by introducing healthy options will need a lot of rebranding of core values.

Simon Seward

Managing director Touchdown Brand Affinity Marketing

London WC2

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