CJ Swaby on how to lose friends and alienate people.
I love food. No fooling, I mean I really love it. You know how some people just see food as an energy source to get them through the day and will chuck anything down their gullet to get them through? Well, that’s not me. I can’t even relate to this. How can I when there is so much pleasure to be gained from eating healthy, quality food. The food I eat is far from bland, and many a meal time I marvel at the taste sensation as my taste buds reel in the ecstasy from the sumptuous bounty that nourishes my body, and replenishes my lust for life. Yep. There is no denying it. For me, food is fun. Food is sexy.
With the ever-increasing demands of work and life, preparation is key. Indeed it has been noted by friends that I “prepare like a boss.” Paramount to preparing like a boss is organisation. Making sure I source quality food is a priority. As such I order in organic, grass-fed meat from various companies. Every now and again they send me emails. You know the type, “Cooking for Fat Loss” or “ 5 Steps to a Fantastic Steak” so on and so forth. So last week I was flicking through my inbox, and one particular company sent me email with a header that quite simply baffled me. I stopped. Read the title of the email again. My heart sank. The company was Athleat. The title of the email was, wait for it…
“Fighting The Fat Person Within.”
I through my hands up in despair. Now I’ve never had a clinical eating disorder, and looking back as an athlete in my youth I blatantly had disordered eating behaviours. However, for the last 20 years my body fat percentage fluctuates between 7 – 10%. So why was I so mortified at the title of the email?
It was just a whole bag of wrong on so many levels. I’ve actually communicated with the guys behind Athleat before, and they seem like genuine people. This was bad interruption marketing. As a company, Athleat are capable of being so much better than that.
I actually refused to open the email. I opened it by mistake a day later when at 3am in the morning when I had trouble sleeping and decided to crack on with some work. As I ploughed through a torrent of emails in my inbox my nimble index finger clicked and opened that email.
I was greeted with a picture of an apparently overweight man in a super market. He wasn’t so much pushing the trolley, he was using it for support. For added emphasis the image was anchored to the text “Fighting The Fat Person Within” and encouraged you to “click here” for the full article. That was straight up awesome. 10 points for demonising overweight “fat” people and alienating others. Ugh. I buried my head in my hands and sighed deeply. “Oh Athleat. Dear, dear Athleat. What have you done?”
I flagged it up on Facebook, and I wasn’t the only coach who was disappointed. Lisa Fairclough pointed out,
“They should be made aware of what could potentially be a very bad move on their part. Their current advertising is not something I can support, it was completely aimed at a single demographic. I use services like this as a means to just eat better and I have even promoted the website to friends and clients who may be trying to lose weight and are looking for good sources of quality meat, after seeing that ad, well that’s just embarrassing!”
Lisa later told me that she had unsubscribed from their mailing list when she got that email. Having also referred people in the past, I could relate to her sentiment. The debate waged on, so I made my thoughts clear:
“I also think it’s worth highlighting that eating disorders, and disorder eating are prevalent in the demographic that they targeted that advertisement too. I appreciate what they attempted to do, but It is interruption marketing in its most hideous form. This goes nowhere to starting a positive conversation about food and health. It just serves to reinforce a relationship to food based on guilt and self loathing, while attempting to be humorous and get you to purchase their product.”
Am I overreacting? Could very well be. But in my experience in this line of work, I’ve encountered far too many situations where a distorted relationship to food has had a major negative impact on health, and even self-esteem. It’s not something I can simply ignore.
So I hunted down digital media expert Elisah Van Vriesland, and asked her what Athleat could have done differently? Or at least how they could have prevented something like this from reaching the wrong audience (it was noted that the actually article was potentially useful). Here’s what she said:
Perhaps the message was meant to humour Athleat’s naturally athletic customers, however it’s more likely that it offended their ‘weight loss’ segment. This could have been avoided if they had a proper communication plan in place. I’ve outlined 5 steps that could help them for future customer relationship management campaigns:
Step 1 – Create communication goals
Starting with a goal is step one. In Athleat’s case, they wanted to drive traffic to their Planning Ahead article, ultimately increasing purchases of their Monthly Meat Box. This creates a purpose for the communication plan.
Step 2 – Use audience profiling
Outline everything from gender, age, careers, family status and hobbies to answer the question: Who are we selling to? When users register with Athleat, it’s a good idea to collect a bit of information about them in order to tailor future marketing messages to their needs.
Step 3 – Decide on a message
What is the message we are putting across? In this case, Athleat wanted to deliver the message that a monthly meat box can help to make food preparation easier and more affordable.
Step 4 – Distribute the message
How will this message reach your audience? Again, using a segmented email distribution list would have helped to ensure that the “Fighting the Fat People Within” message was only served to those who would find it humorous.
Step 5 – Measure
Once the plan is in place, they should apply measureable actions to consistently evaluate performance. They should then adjust the plan accordingly to ensure their goals are always being met.
Appears like a pretty solid plan to me. Simple too. So there you have it. Let’s create a dialogue on food and health that is not based on guilt, self loathing, depravation and all that heavy, sticky psychological mess. How about a conversation based on fun, enjoyment, vitality, possibility, sensuality, taste sensation, and long term health? I know which one I’d prefer. How about you?