“No additives and no preservatives!” “Made in the USA!” “Only natural ingredients!” We’re all familiar with advertising angles such as these, and they are becoming more and more ubiquitous across print, digital and TV. That’s fine. I’m all for food made with real ingredients and promoting products that are made here in our own backyard. And I’m all for companies touting these positives to the consumer.
Where companies such as McDonald’s, Walmart, and Kraft are going wrong is with one little word—“now”. The word “now”, as it is used in the three ad messages I’ll use to illustrate my point, implies that something is happening now that has not happened in the past. I’m not sure that is the best message for the advertisers to portray.
McDonald’s: McDonald’s is touting “new 100% white meat chicken nuggets with no artificial colors, flavors, and now no preservatives.” The word ‘new’ implies that it has never been done before, as does the word ‘now’. So we have to ask, why would McDonald’s want their millions of customers to wonder what they have been feeding their kids all these years? If the 100% chicken is new, what else was in the nuggets before? If there are now no added preservatives, then there were all these years before? Would the message not have been just as effective to say, “100% white meat chicken nuggets with no added colors, flavors, or preservatives.” Or simply, “McDonald’s nuggets: just chicken, nothing else added.”
Kraft: Kraft’s comedic television ad about its Mac ‘n Cheese has received rave reviews from publications such as AdAge but I can’t say I agree. The fact that “no one noticed” that they have replaced non-food based ingredients and dyes with real ingredients such as…well…cheese for example, only tells us that we’ve been consuming dyes and chemicals by the tons for all these years. To me, that’s more scary than impressive. As with the McDonald’s ads, eliminating the word “now” and simply saying something like “America’s favorite macaroni and cheese. You can’t fake real,” is still clever, and doesn’t remind us of the ugly chemical truth from before.
Walmart: And then there’s Walmart, who for years has been under fire for displacing American jobs due to the majority of its imports coming from China, is suddenly promoting its support of creating manufacturing jobs here at home. The fact that the company is now standing behind “Made in the USA” products does not undo the hundreds, even millions of jobs displaced throughout the past few decades. There have been estimates of up to 3.2 million, according to one news source. My point here is not to condemn Walmart, rather to suggest that, as an advertiser, you can communicate a message about something positive that your company is doing or promote a new product or product feature without dredging up something negative or undesirable that you have provided in the past. And let’s face it, the reason Walmart is sourcing products manufactured domestically has nothing to do with creating jobs here at home and everything to do with the rising costs of labor and shipping from China. It’s an economic decision.
Maybe instead of going down the rabbit hole of “now bringing manufacturing jobs back to the USA,” instead communicate something like “Providing the best value on products used every day by hard-working American families.” They can even apply the same video clips and Dream On soundtrack.
“Now” should only be used if a product feature was good before, and now is even better: “Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese— now even cheesier.”