How The Paula Deen Buzz Refined My Brand Promise
As the news about Paula Deen and her Diabetes/drug deal scandal continue (the latest with her publicist of six years quitting over it), I continue to think about why it’s significant to so many people … and to me. For me, the scandal, and the heated discussion around it, have unexpectedly helped me to more clearly define what DeathbedFood is … and isn’t.
Erika, in her recent post “Super Foods Month: Paula Deen and creamy Kale soup”, talks about how Paula Deen “peddled butter, cream, cheese, sugar, fried foods and other health-conscious no-no’s to the American public in shocking amounts … for the ratings.” Fair enough. She then questioned, like I have, whether the level of vitriol is needed, saying:
I’m not going to be too hard on Paula Deen. She’s got a living to make, just like the rest of us. People make their own choices about what goes into their mouths. Paula Deen made her own choices about what kind of food she wanted to showcase on TV in order to maintain her personal brand and her ratings.
Agreed. But then Erika made a point about food blogging that got me up out of my Twitter trance:
Unlike Paula Deen, I write about the food I eat, and my family eats, day in and day out. And most food bloggers I know do the same.
Most food bloggers do the same? I’d say, many do – particularly those, like Erika, who feature recipes and cooking techniques. But there’s a whole other food blogging camp that I fall into – the restaurant/chef/food scene blogger camp. There, I’d say the “representative” diet picture diminishes (unless you’re lucky enough to be say a restaurant critic for the New York Times, like Frank Bruni was, and dine out at incredibly nice venues the majority of the time).
Which brings me to Frank whose very revealing memoir, “Frank’s recent NYT piece, he points out how food writers/promoters who are fit/thin go out of their way to hide their healthful lifestyle behaviors … neglecting to tell us about their workouts, salads, grilled vegetables, high-fiber cereals, egg whites and the like.” about his lifelong battle against weight struggles is one of my favorites. In
But, Frank, with all due respect, so what? Actually, it feels to me like Erika and Frank are saying much the same thing. That somehow it’s wrong to only showcase bad-for-you foods if you’re not also including healthy options and lifestyle choices.
I disagree. Here’s why:
- Branding is important. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Marketing, it’s that you can’t successfully be all things to all people. So if a blog is trying to cover decadence, health, exercise, menu management, diet … it risks diluting its brand and confusing people.
- My brand promise is very clear. DeathbedFood exists to “Celebrate Food & Wine To Die For” (“pure” and simple). And, for me, “DeathbedFood” is typically something that’s considered “bad for you”, “fattening”, or, at best, something to be consumed in moderation. Yes, on occasion, I’ll highlight something “healthy” (Actress as her DeathbedFood). But, more often than not, it’ll be decadent.
Do I feel a responsibility to balance out my decadent posts with more health-oriented ones? To share how I try to exercise and eat right? Not really. My blog is for adults – and I believe that adults have the capability to lust after one thing and behave in a different manner if they choose to. Sure, I lust after the Butterscotch Pot de Creme with Salted Caramel & Creme Fraiche at Gjelina I just had …
OK, full confession, I also lust after the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Amaretti Gelato there too … and yes, I personally ate the majority of both of the desserts you see in one setting (after a full dinner). Do I eat that way every day? No. But, after this, will you see reference to the proportion of my healthy/unhealthy daily dietary habits? No – because that’s not what this blog is about (and I don’t want you to die from boredom because I need you as a reader!).
So do I have it right or all wrong? Should I be talking about the salads with broccoli sprouts and healthy dressing I eat? Or is some lust and longing, at least in the food world, OK? Isn’t life too short just to eat high-fiber cereal?