Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Iced Coffee, Blogs and a Scarf

Has anyone read about the big dust up with Rachel Ray and a recent ad for Dunkin' Donuts? Seems said celebrity chef was wearing a scarf in the ad that shows her enjoying a DD iced coffee against the backdrop of some pink flowering trees. So, what's the problem? Believe it or not, the problem is the scarf! Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin claimed on TV that it looked suspiciously like a kaffiyeh, a traditional Arab scarf. Once the story hit the media, including multiple political blogs, Dunkin Donuts decided to pull the ad.

The marketing implications of this go beyond the initial story. While the blogs I've read have generally panned the Malkin's criticism of the scarf -- "Is this idiocy or what?" writes Jacob Hornberger in his Media with Conscience blog -- they're reserving even more ire for Dunkin Donuts. "Dunkin Donuts should never have caved" says blogger Charles Cronn. "Even more disquieting (than the controversy) is the fact that Dunkin' Donuts quickly yanked the ad," writes the LA Times' Monica Corcoran (156 responses so far) -- BTW, love the title of her blog post: Rachel Ray is a fashion terrorist. And MarketWatch blogger Jon Friedman (82 responses so far) says it "underscores the potential perils of employing celebrity endorsers. Dunkin' Donuts was eager to capitalize on the legitimacy of Ray, a celebrity chef, in its ads. But in a way, her fame worked against the interests of the food company. Celebrities can make consumers pay closer attention to products because ordinary people want to identify with them. But when the celebrities run into criticism, the company that hired them can pay a price by getting unwanted publicity."

It seems like Dunkin Donuts can't win the PR war here, even though their only offense is a poor wardrobe choice. Don't pull the ad, have Michelle Malkin and her supporters continue to rail. Pull the ad and have people criticize you for "caving to the right's fear of clothing accessories." So far I haven't found any response from the company beyond their initial statement that they didn't want a "misperception" to detract from their promotion of the product.

Here's what people in our business are saying. What does anyone else think?


Anonymous said...

My first thought is, how can she stay so skinny slurping down XL iced and/or blended coffee drinks? Bitch. There, I feel better. My second thought is stop being tards, critics. How totally oozing with PC, something forbidden at my blog.

Great article!

Anne said...

Thanks diva. I agree: I can't drink those things because I know how many calories are in there. I'd rather eat a good piece of chocolate.

JohnP@Dell said...

Hi Anne -- Companies, albeit few, are just learning how to monitor blogs and relevantly enter conversations that go on with or without them. Over time, marketers will find the blogosphere is a great place to hit issues head on and connect with their customers.

Btw, nice blog.

Anne said...

I have to relate a funny story here that didn't really belong in the original post. Back in the day when I was still on TV, I did training videos for a local restaurant chain. I played the "reporter" interviewing restaurant workers about their jobs (in this case the workers were real employees). One of the videos featured workers preparing items for the restaurant's salad and soup bar. I remember standing in the restaurant kitchen, interviewing two workers, while a young African-American employee stood in the background cutting up a watermelon. During a break in the filming I said to the director: do you really think it's a good idea for a black employee to be shown in this video cutting up a watermelon? He admitted he hadn't thought about it like that. When we resumed taping, the worker was chopping cantaloupe.

Mara Linaberger said...

I think the whole thing just goes to show how folks make big things out of little things. How about someone blogging about how unhealthy the XL iced coffee actually is for you - and questioning why a decent chef like Rachael Ray would endorse such a caloric heavy drink?

If anyone is going to criticize Rachael's wardrobe, they only need to watch her old "Thirty Minute Meals" spots to see that she made lots of fashion boo boos before this one ;-)

Unfrozen Cave Girl Marketer said...

Well, I'm a big fan of Dunkin' Donuts, and I have long been a bit disappointed with their brand identity, or lack thereof. They don't seem to know who they are or what they are to us, and are simply allowing themselves to be defined by what Starbucks is not.
No big surprised they can be spooked by a criticism from an a very biased (in my opinion) source.
I love their coffee a lot though, as do many people where I live in southern New England! ;-)