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Humble Cause Marketing Consultant Mocks Mighty Ketchum

If you were the CEO of a food company, what would be your top priority for the company?

  • Making a profit, you say?

  • Employing people?

  • Providing food to people who want or need it?

  • Supporting your family?
Ha, silly you.

In a survey published in October by Ketchum, 1000 people… 200 each in the US, UK, Germany, Argentina and China… were asked what they’d do if they were CEO of global food company.

Before I ridicule the poll from Ketchum, a global PR agency and a unit of the jinormous Omnicom Group, let me address the two elements of the study pertinent to cause marketers.
  • In those five countries, more than 40 percent say they would pay more for food if it would improve water and food deliver medicine to the needy.

  • The consumers who said they’d be most responsive to this cause marketing-like approach were from China (64 percent) and Argentina (58 percent).
That would be potentially interesting if the rest of the survey were actually credible.

The survey mainly asked pretty standard questions: “When making food purchases, what factors do you consider?” “Where do you think consumers should have more say, control, involvement?”

But then they jumped the shark and asked a silly Barbara Walters type question. (When Walters once interviewed Katherine Hepburn, she asked what kind of tree the actress thought she would be.)

Ketchum asked: “If you were CEO of a global food company, which of the following, if any, would be your top priority?” Then they provided a universe of nine possible answers:
“Improving human nutrition; Making food that is safer; Making foods that taste great; Making foods that cost less; Ending malnutrition; Solving the obesity crisis; Ending hunger; Using power/dollars to make a difference; Making a profit.”
Those are listed in the order they finished in the survey. ‘Improving human nutrition’ finished first among all with 65 percent and ‘making a profit’ finished last with 33 percent.

The western jingoism of the questions is stunning. One wonders how ‘solving the obesity crisis’ question would have played in western China. And, ‘ending malnutrition?’ It would be analogous to ask Ketchum’s CEO… who is, after all, a professional communicator… to make a corporate priority of healing the communications rift between the Arabs and the Jews.

If pressed, I’m sure Ketchum would frame these answers as aspirational.

But if a company isn’t making a profit, no other good it could do is sustainable. Ketchum's canned answers are an illogical nonstarter.

And surveying 1,000 people in five countries with a combined population of population of more than 1.7 billion is statistically inadequate to say the least.

It’s hard to take this survey from Ketchum as anything besides PR agency puffery.


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