Wednesday, January 18

Brand Paula Deen

It was the diagnosis heard round the world, after days-weeks-months of speculation.  And for some, years of -- duh!

Paula Deen officially announced yesterday that she has Type II Diabetes.  She also simultaneously announced a partnership with a diabetes drug to help educate Americans on how to live with diabetes and how to live more healthy in general.  Oh -- and a mention about how her son has already been promoting more healthy recipes as his own brand of "chef."

This coming from the often criticized Queen of Butter.  As I've been following this story the last few days, particularly in social media, it's amazing to see the range of reactions.

Sure, some feel badly for her.  Not many from what I can tell.  Although I am sure that there are many many fans that are pumping through letters of support to her.  I'm not sure that Al Roker from The Today Show is one of them by the tone of his interview yesterday.

Most people were not shocked, given her eating habits and her recipes.  I mean -- a burger with bacon and an egg between two Krispy Kreme donuts?  Wow!  Many said that with that lifestyle, she should have known it was coming.  She's had more than her fair share of criticism from nutritionists, other chefs,  you name it.

Many, though, were down right mad.  The way she announced it seemed oh so contrived and planned.  Not at all authentic, something that is becoming a requirement for a brand to survive these days.  Once we knew that she knew for years now (some say since 2008), and yet kept up those tv shows ... anger set in.

For me, from a marketing perspective .... sad.  Sad to see the person behind a brand not well.  Sad to see how she manipulated her lifestyle and her fan base to orchestrate the next move of her brand.  Sad to see that basically her health is for sale (as one of my friends on Twitter so adeptly commented).  I think that's crossing the line, and I think that's why we are seeing the range of reactions.

I am not in her target market, and I am not a fan personally.  But as a marketer, I hope that it all turns out ok.  I hope she stays well.  And I hope, in the end, that she is able to help her fan base turn their lives around too.  They could use the help, and she does have the power.  She's just going to have to do that in a much more transparent and honest way for her "brand" to continue successfully.

You can read a little more about the saga here.  Stay well.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President of Lippe Taylor
Author of The Experience Effect
Professor at NYU


  1. I think if Paula Deen had announced she had diabetes without simultaneously announcing her role as spokeswoman for a drug company people may have had more compassion. It was so manipulative. Consumers are smarter than that that. While I don't buy into Paula's butter dripping style of cooking, I did watch her show on occasion for it's entertainment value. I believed her in sweet, sugar coated, southern 'authenticity' which turns out is about as natural as Dolly Parton's breasts. She played her audience and I don't think they'll take kindly to it.

  2. Love the comparison and the perspective! Can always count on you, my friend! Jim.

  3. Am I a bad perso? Because I'm so hungry after reading about those Krispy Kreme Bacon Egg Burgers.

  4. Don't forget the special sauce! Jim.

  5. Excellent blog post Jim! Personally, it saddens me to see Paula Deen, with her poor health choices and the food she sells on her restaurant menu, selected as a paid as spokesperson by Novo Nordisk for diabetes management.

  6. Paula Deen has obviously done very well in building the "Paula Deen" brand - from shows to cookbooks to kitchen products. What your post speaks so well to is the manipulation of her loyal followers. If I was a loyal viewer I would feel totally duped - is she just fattening us up to now sell us the drugs we'll need? Awful. Disappointing. Shameful. She has a voice and should use that voice for good. She is woefully out of touch with the rising rates of type 2 diabetes in this country and even more so what is happening to our children. Thanks for your words, Jim!

  7. I appreciate everyone's comments. The story is not going away anytime soon as now all the entertainment properties are weighing in. And not many are thrilled with her choices about how she can communicated her news and how she has managed her brand. Jim.

  8. The whole situation appears to be mercenary and disingenious in my eyes. She never disclosed her condition and - in fact - defied it by continuing to promote her signature brand of cooking for 3 years post diagnosis. Then comes clean when she has an opportunity to add to her bank account. I would have never recommended pursing her as spokesperson. A spokesperson should reflect your messages/position. In this case, I don't understand what they are trying to communicate. It's being clouded by the association of her brand and of course the backlash.