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Cause Marketing Rachael Ray's Dog Food Line

Rachael Ray, the TV personality and chef, and now, brand, is so cute that I’m not sure that if I met her in person that I could stop myself from pinching the cheeks on her face.

I admire her life story, which while not exactly hardscrabble, nonetheless demonstrates unusual determination and hard work. Good for her and all her success. She earned it. I can also commend her as a generous philanthropist.

If one word signifies her brand it’s the first word of the copy in the ad to the left; ‘Simple.’ She made her name and reputation with 30-minute meals. When she cooks she measures nothing, and her recipes are almost insouciant. She cooks like an Italian grandmother, only her dimples are a whole lot cuter.

But when you become a brand and your brand is ‘Simple’ with a capital-S it’s easy to take simple pretty seriously. That’s what’s wrong with this ad for her line of dog food that benefits animal welfare groups including the North Shore Animal League and the ASPCA.

Good on her.

But just look at this double-truck ad from this September 6, 2010 issue of People magazine. The ad is roughly 15.4 inches by 10.4 inches, most of which is given over to white space. I know how art directors get all googly-eyed over ‘negative space,’ but white space doesn’t sell to anybody besides art directors.

No dog owner is going to buy a bag of either Just 6 or Nutrish because the sparseness of the ad seems to perfectly reflect Rachael Ray’s Simple aesthetic…unless they’re art directors.

Are we really expected to get all our visual cues that this is Rachael Ray’s dog food line from her smallish picture on the bag of Nutrish and her signature in the right side panel? Where’s the back story that explains why she’s offering dog food in the first place? I’m a casual fan and I know Rachael Ray is a dog lover, but shouldn’t there be some kind of account that says that when she looked at the current dog food offerings she found them wanting?

The cause overlay is a huge part of the sales appeal, so why is the explanatory logo so small? Why isn’t there at least a partial explanation in this ad of who the benefiting charities are? ‘Rachael’s Rescues’ is so active sounding you could easily assume that her charity is out saving animals, rather than funding charities that do the actual work.

The Nutrish website makes it clear that Nutrish is a kind of Newman's Own, only benefiting animal welfare agencies. Companies like Nutrish and Newman's Own are sometimes called 'all benefits companies.' So where’s the clear explanation of that ‘Rachael’s proceeds help animals in need’ actually means that all profits from Nutrish goes to animal welfare groups?

The ad could certainly do all this and still say Simple.


Megan said…
Great post on branding and Rachael Ray! I just wrote a similar post on her in regards to personal and emotional branding and came to a similar conclusion that her entire image can rely on the term: simple. This is what the ad should have reflected. I'm not sure why she feels compelled to endorse her own line of dog food (should the ad have explained this?) but I know she is a huge dog lover. I admire her branding and entrepreneurial spirit but if I was her, I would not endorse every product that landed in my lap with a paycheck attached (example: Dunkin' Donuts).

My post here:
Hi Megan:

Thanks for your comment!

I appreciate learning about your blog.

Warm regards,
Anonymous said…
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