Looking at the headlines about Coca-Cola paying third party nutrition experts and dietitians to discuss 7.5 ounce cans of Coke as a healthy snack choice (Coca-Cola paid nutrition experts to recommend soda as a healthy snack), one might immediately frown upon the soda giant’s tactics. Paying experts to promote soda as a snack? How tawdry and untoward!
Yet look closer and you may realize a few important things about this story.
The dietitians involved are unwavering in their practice of promoting 7.5 ounce servings of Coke as a healthy snack choice. "I absolutely think that I provided valuable information," said one. That is because these bloggers and commentators are not saying you should drink Coke to be healthy. They are saying that choosing a small serving of a beverage such as Coke is not harmful to your health. Drink it in moderation along with a healthy lifestyle and the stuff can’t hurt you.
Also, spokesman Ben Sheidler was equally unapologetic in his defense of the practice to pay experts to talk about Coca-Cola’s products. "We have a network of dietitians we work with…Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent," said Sheidler.
It is as refreshing as a sip of Coke to hear both the bloggers and the company stand by their choice to affiliate with each other. Companies such as Coca-Cola are under a barrage of attacks from the food police and you do not see the national news media asking those organizations from where they get their funding.
To protect the integrity of their corporate brand, major companies should be transparent about these affiliations. They should also use every tool at their disposal to properly impact perceptions about their products, especially if they are combating misinformation attacks against them.
Major food companies expend great resources to communicate to their consumers about a balanced diet and healthy living. Such corporate social responsibility empowers consumers to make wise choices about their consumption choices, which is conducted voluntarily by such companies – though they also do so as a preemptive move to limit their liability against anticipated legal actions based on obesity rates and their advertising practices – another good reason.
This is despite recent evidence that too little exercise is twice the culprit in deaths than obesity. In announcing the findings in a new study, the University of Cambridge recently stated:
The study of over 334,000 European men and women found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity, but that just a modest increase in physical activity could have significant health benefits.
From a PR standpoint, Coke should do even more to build support among natural allies in their business network to promote the positive benefits of their company and the proper way to consume their products.
To those who have a problem with a major corporation communicating creatively about their brand and products – get over it! The practice of using third party experts to promote healthy choices including Coke products is the real thing and the company should continue to do it with effervescence.