Monday, June 18, 2012

Coca-Cola execs say the darndest things

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 1:39 PM

A "multicultural market researcher" named David Morse wrote a really insulting, bizarre, confusing, racially icky article for Ad Age last week in which he says that, yes, soft drink companies like Coca-Cola have a history of zealously target black and hispanic consumers, BUT those black and hispanic consumers should be happy about it because they're getting attention from a multi-million dollar industry? Something like that. And despite the fact that sugary beverages turn people into fatties.

OR DO THEY?

Apparently, ABC News recently interviewed a former Coca-Cola marketing executive who said he felt bad about targeting teens, blacks, and hispanics for so many years. A current Coca-Cola executive named Katie Bayne, president of sparkling beverages in North America, shot back in a USA Today piece, saying, "there is no scientific evidence" that Coke and other sparkly sugar waters are connected to obesity. She also said that sugary garbage drinks can be part of a healthy diet so long as the calories taken in are being burned off.

No scientific evidence that consumption of soda is connected to obesity? C'man.

Even Morse — who appears to be very much on the soft drink industry's side in the war against soda — points out Bayne's error.

Bayne's nutritional equation might add up, but she is off on her scientific evidence. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, sugar-sweetened beverages are the primary source of added sugar to the American diet. Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity summarized several studies last year establishing that that African Americans, who are more likely to drink them, are at a higher risk for obesity and related chronic diseases.

As for the insulting, racially icky portion of Morse's presentation ...

In the interest of transparency, let me confess my bias. I've done a lot of work over the years for one of the big soft-drink companies. Let me point out that I've seen that company do a lot to increase consumption of its diet drinks, bottled water, juice and healthy snacks. But let's face it. Hispanics and African Americans are much less interested in diet products. Sugary drinks — often the sweeter the better — do well with them. There are a lot of cultural barriers to getting both these groups to understand the importance of being lean.

Morse continues, "Multicultural marketing is about talking to minorities — or if you prefer, the new mainstream — and representing them, acknowledging them and showing them that you care about their business." That sounds so much more pleasant than targeting and stereotyping.

H/T to Gawker.

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