KFC has a new marketing plan and it’s called Unthink KFC. Gone are the days when fast food giants can continue to advertise and sell only fried trans-fat foods. To help promote their grilled chicken option, a new lower-calorie alternative to their Original Recipe, KFC teamed up with Oprah to offer a limited time coupon that offers a free two piece meal with sides and biscuits to its customers. It may seem like a sweet deal but here’s five reasons why Oprah’s coupons trouble me.
1. Healthier Options but Still Hypocritical: KFC may be offering free grilled chicken that has less calories and fat than its fried alternative, but is it really a healthier alternative? I’m not sure how Oprah is able to reconcile her message of healthier and greener options with her giving away free fast-food meals to the public. I suppose the argument is that if many people still go to fast food restaurants for meals, it’s important to promote the healthiest options at those restaurants. But that doesn’t seem to be enough reasoning for me. Given Oprah’s influence, I think her name could be put to better use elsewhere in the struggle to provide everyone with fair nutritional access and education.
2. KFC’s Corporate Component: Yum! Brands is the parent company for KFC and has over the years been linked to irresponsible food practices around the world. Although Oprah herself once exposed the treatment of chickens and advocated for conscious choices amidst brands that support concentrated animal feeding operations, she is putting her money behind an institution that buys its meat from Tyson, the largest chicken processor in the United States. Paula Crossfield writes about this in more detail over at The Huffington Post.
3. Unsustainable: KFC is a far cry from the sustainable alternatives that Oprah should be supporting, alternatives that would seem to be more in line with “living your best life.”
4. Risks Reinforcing Stereotypes: There’s something troubling about an “unthinking” campaign in which a black woman is the spokesperson for providing hundreds of people with grilled chicken. This collaboration has simply given media the opportunity to reinforce racist stereotypes, which has already happened enough if you caught the footage of protesters during Popeye’s free chicken offer. The deal opens up more space for racist joking – do we really need more of that?
5. Distracts from Imperative Issues: Oprah’s name tends to distract the media and the public from the actual issues that are still affecting communities everyday. I understand the notion of giving the people what they want during a difficult time. But I’m not sure if the consequences of that notion are worthwhile. People are protesting and rallying against stores that aren’t accepting KFC coupons. Surely Oprah knows she can spark this kind of upheaval. Shouldn’t she avoid putting her influence towards issues like this and continue focusing on larger social justice and grassroots movements?
What kinds of projects do you think Oprah should back?