Bite your tongue before you brand

One key lessons of advertising I have learned is said perfectly by Thumper in the Disney film, Bambi:
Unfortunately, Panera Bread Company’s Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously campaign failed this test. They needed to bite their tongue before they branded. Blogger Dairy Carrie uncovered some flaws in their advertising with the use of EZ Chicken. The campaign emphasizes the chicken used in their menu items is ‘antibiotic free’. However,
the focus of their branding is the fact that it is easy to raise chickens with antibiotics  insinuating that poultry farmers take a short cut to raising their livestock. Carrie composed a post title Dear Panera Bread Company, that dissects the campaign on Twitter and Facebook. I highly encourage you read her perspective on the issue.
Dairy Carrie blogEZ Chicken on Facebook
I can’t properly portray the upset this created for the agricultural industry. Farmers and ranchers were outraged to hear this restaurant called some of them “lazy”. Where would we be without farmers? Naked and hungry. This caused the sensation of sharing. Not only did Carrie express valid arguments for what Panera said, but she had exponential traffic to her post with over 14,000 shares. From Twitter comments to Facebook posts, many people expressed their thoughts to Panera. The company finally took action to acknowledge these thoughts.
Panera comment on Facebook
After seeing this response, I would take action, too. Panera did remove the @EZChicken Twitter handle, however, they still have live posts of EZ Chicken on their Facebook page.
What does this say about the impact consumer have on a brand? Not only did Panera recognize their mistake, but they watched as Panera enthusiasts dropped comments left and right about never returning to dine at their restaurants. 
From this event, I have a growing concern. The disconnect between producers, food suppliers, restaurants and consumers is growing. If Panera is unable to properly explain that all chicken for human consumption is “antibiotic free”, what does that mean for other restaurants and companies looking to diversify their products for a larger consumer audience?
My job as an agricultural communicator is becoming more vital with these changes in marketing strategies and consumer interests. However, it is not just the “communication major’s” job. It is a task for all agriculturalists. As more agricultural companies rely on the expertise of people designing tag lines and campaigns, it is more challenging for agriculturalists to convey those messages for products and services.
How will we alleviate this issue? 
That is an overarching obstacle for us to solve together.

***Update 7/26/2013: Panera has “reached out” to Carrie. Read more about their thoughts and her reaction. It is time to #PluckEZChicken.

3 thoughts on “Bite your tongue before you brand

  • Your blog post made me think back to our COMM 3334. All those companies that are simply doing their job, but sure don't seem to think about the outcome of their actions.

    As for Panera Bread, they haven't regained my business, but I do believe they have an important lesson to learn and pass on others. That message of course being to understand your own product before you try to tell others what it is.

    Good post Caroline! See you this fall.


  • I couldn't agree more, Sam. The teachings from that course and my internship have given me a new perspective on brand development and advertising. Now, we need to find a way to integrate these messages to companies and organizations in the food and agriculture industries.


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