Fast Food: Should Healthcare Marketers Step In?
Some brands selling food or operating restaurants think of themselves as healthcare marketers. The FDA often stops these claims in marketing, but some glaring exceptions seem to apply. And a recent extensive article in the New York Times about KFC’s marketing in Ghana brings that into focus, prompting the question of whether healthcare marketers should specifically address fast food ads in their patient marketing.
Target Marketing blogger Chuck McLeester says patients stop taking even essential medication within three months of physician visits because there’s something they don’t understand about their treatment — either why it’s necessary or what they were supposed to do for their own care. So he suggested healthcare organizations create marketing campaigns to educate consumers and prompt them to comply with their care regimes.
In the case of fast food consumers, the Times article says resulting illnesses may include diabetes and heart disease. If healthcare marketers are connected with these consumers, perhaps via treatment, they may want to address claims like the ones the Times brought to light from KFC in its article “Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC.”
The Cleveland Clinic is known for its content marketing, including educating customers about eating healthy. However, those pieces of content are about what food they should eat. It’s proactive marketing.
The FDA requires fast food establishments make the following available to consumers, in the form of menus upon request: total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.
Are patients requesting the menus? Maybe not. Are they seeing the marketing? Chances are, yes.
Here are examples of claims that may lend themselves to reactive marketing by U.S. healthcare organizations, pulled from the Times article:
KFC executives see a major opportunity [in Ghana] to be part of people’s regular routines, a goal they are advancing through a creative marketing campaign and use of social media. When asked if it is unhealthy for people to eat fried chicken often, Kimberly Morgan, a KFC spokeswoman in Plano, Texas, said, “At KFC, we’re proud of our world famous, freshly in-store prepared fried chicken and believe it can be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.”
Company representatives said they take health seriously in the region, noting their sponsorship of a youth cricket league in South Africa. The company, they said, has worked to make their menu more diverse and healthier.
“That’s why we provide consumers choice,” said Andrew Havinga, who runs the supply chain for KFC’s Africa division. “We do believe in a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”
For now, though, KFC customers in Ghana have fewer healthy options than in Western countries. Grilled chicken, salads and sides like green beans and corn, standard at KFC in the United States, aren’t available here. Mr. Havinga said KFC hoped to offer Ghanaians more options eventually. “That’s part of our journey,” he said.
What do you think, marketers? What’s the best way to tell patients the difference between food being healthy itself vs. being part of a healthy diet? Is having healthy food options enough if patients don’t choose them? Should healthcare marketers get involved?
Please respond in the comments section below.