Brand Publishing

July 8th, 2014

This Is What an Inauthentic Brand Publication Looks Like

A company recently launched a quirky new digital publication called “Let’s Gather”—complete with animated bees—that encourages consumers to live eco-friendly and health-conscious lives. Articles include “Giving Up Groceries for a Year,” “Supreme Superfoods,” and “Extreme Stair Climbing.” What new-age brand could be responsible for such feel-good content?

It’s not Back Roads Granola. It’s Chick-fil-A.

As Kiera Butler noted on Mother Jones, Chick-fil-A—whose chicken sandwich is stuffed with 27 grams of fat, 1750 milligrams of sodium, and an ingredients list almost as long as the Declaration of Independence—is an odd fit to launch a wellness site. It’s clearly an effort to change the image of a brand that’s currently recognized nearly as much for its stance against gay marriage as for its fast food, but in doing so, Chick-fil-A is dismissing two of the cardinal rules of content creation: Don’t trick your consumers, and don’t piss them off.

Dayna Crozier, a food writer and former editor for Urbanist, offers a reaction that captures the ramifications of such an approach. “I shouldn’t be shocked but I am,” she said. “This is such a disingenuous way to attract two customer bases they have no business winning over: those concerned with healthy living (and likely, some kind of authenticity and a better world), and those they lost when they proved themselves to be hateful homophobes involved in seriously hurting others.”

One of the biggest issues with the authenticity of Let’s Gather is that it doesn’t focus on foods that are available on the chain’s menu. For example, most consumers are aware that wild salmon and chia seeds have never made it within shouting distance of Chick-fil-A’s value meals. Their fried chicken patties are not served on kintsugi plates.

As Melissa Lafsky Wall, the founder of Brick Wall Media, puts it: “I run a company that launches sites like these for brands, and we would definitely advise against positioning a site like this, with a content strategy like this, for a brand that is so publicly viewed in a way that opposes, well, everything about this site. You can’t do a wellness content site and expect it to magically change perceptions of your brand.”

Another misstep is that Let’s Gather doesn’t do much to distance Chick-fil-A from its homophobic image, as much of the site’s content has been written almost exclusively by people that back their religious agenda. Take, for example, Tim Willard. He’s a chaplain, writes a blog series on prayer, and believes that gay marriage is wrong. His article about plates even has noticeable religious themes threaded throughout: “We want our scars to shimmer like gold and tell a beautiful story: namely, that what is broken can be whole again, and more beautiful than before.”

Arguably, Chick-fil-A is attempting to emulate the content marketing success of Chipotle. The Mexican chain’s content marketing strategy has been blowing competitors out of the water with viral videos and an entertaining Hulu series championing sustainable food production and healthy eating. But unlike Chick-fil-A, Chipotle actually takes steps to ensure that their content is consistent with their products and values. Rather than setting itself up for some much-needed positive press, Chick-fil-A is simply digging itself into a deeper hole.

Let’s Gather? Yes, back at the drawing board.


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