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Big Little Lies


Is it ever right to lie to children?

Well-meaning childless people will probably shake their heads and say "No. Never." Meanwhile, parents (who may be equally well-meaning, but far more tired) will quickly lose track of all the lies they've told. "Fluffy went to live on a kitty farm." "The grocery store was all out of Oreos." "Santa Claus won't come if you don't apologize to your brother right this very minute."

Gigantic grocery conglomerate Kraft is in the news today because of some new product positioning. At B Direct, we're all for product positioning. As marketers, we help our clients determine the best position their products and solutions should occupy in a customer or prospective customer's mind and heart. Then, we use all sorts of communication vehicles to put and keep that product there.

However ... we also believe in truth in advertising. And, what Kraft is doing is not exactly truthful. Let's face it, it's kind of a lie. And, a big fat one at that.

Kraft has repackaged, repositioned, and renamed ranch salad dressing as (wait for it) "Salad Frosting."


The idea is that children love frosting but hate vegetables. So, if you tell them that ranch dressing is actually frosting for their vegetables, they'll happily eat their vegetables. In a press release, Kraft asserted, "Kids will eat anything with frosting, right? It's a match made for dinnertime bliss." Um. There are just a few flaws in this thinking.

First, kids aren't stupid. They know what frosting tastes like. (Guess what? It doesn't taste like ranch dressing.)

Second, if you want a kid to eat their healthy vegetables, but, you drown them in ranch dressing, how healthy are those vegetable going to be?

Of course, this isn't the first time food companies have tried to pull a fast one. And, adults are targeted (or should we say, lied to) at least as often as kids. For example, those of you who remember the 80s may also remember "wine coolers." They were originally made from fruit flavoring, sugar (lots of sugar), and cheap wine. Then, the government ran out of money (we're oversimplifying here, in case you couldn't tell) and started taxing alcohol. The tax on wine was exponentially higher than the tax on beer and other booze, so companies like Bartles & Jaymes started making wine coolers without wine. They were technically malt beverages. (Fruit flavored beer, really.) But somehow changing the name to malt coolers didn't occur to anyone. Probably because the target audience for wine coolers wouldn't buy beverages called malt coolers, which we have to admit sound a little disgusting.

Here's another one. The Girl Scouts sell wonderful cookies called Caramel de-Lites. They are delicious, but — alas — there is nothing "lite" about them. In fact, according to Eating Well magazine, they tied with the new S'mores cookie as the least healthy of all the Girl Scouts' options. A serving of Caramel de-Lites (two cookies) has 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 55 mg of sodium. The first (and therefore most abundant) ingredient is sugar.

Hmmm. If you can't trust the Girl Scouts, who can you trust?

Not Kraft, apparently.


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