Do They Really Think That Will Work?

Wendy's Sea Salt

I was watching a football game on TV a few weeks ago, and noticed a new Wendy’s commercial. The basic message is that Wendy’s now uses sea salt on their french fries; the implication is that because it’s more natural, it’s healthy.

It strikes me as an odd message. The reality is that the fries probably aren’t much healthier than they were with whatever other kind of salt was on there. Fries are still potatoes which are soaking in cooking oil (which is 100% fat)  as they cook, correct?  How does the presence of sea salt change that reality?  Presenting these fries as a new, healthful choice is akin to marketing “Schindler’s List” as a comedy.

What strikes me the most, though, is that somewhere at Wendy’s HQ, a person whose job is to know advertising and marketing came up with this idea, in hopes that it will increase sales. Here’s why it won’t:  The barrage of publicity that fast food has received over the past several years has been quite extensive. Everyone knows that french fries are not healthy. Everyone. Yet fast food is still doing quite well as an industry. That leaves us with the indisputable truth that there are two kinds of people in this nation: those who care about their health enough to avoid fast food, and those who like the taste of the stuff more than they care about their health. Since everyone knows the ramifications of eating fries, the fact that so many still purchase them is an indication that they are exercising their right to simply not care.

So if there are two kinds of people: those who care enough about their health to avoid fast food, and those who aren’t bothered enough by it to change their eating habits. Of the former group, nobody is going to be convinced by the new campaign to start buying Wendy’s fries. And the latter group is already buying them. This will result in a net gain of zero increased sales of french fries.

I am no marketing expert, but I’m fairly sure that the purpose of any marketing campaign is to increase sales. I’ve seen dumber marketing efforts, but I’m having a little trouble recalling anything as pointless as this one.