Honestly, the professional PR brigade never cease to amaze me with some of the nuttiest ideas for brand enhancement that all too often turn out to be just the opposite.
My ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow was spammed today by a top PR agency with this nonsense: a product placement stunt at the UN with KFC's iconic Colonel Saunders fronting up with a letter for the UN Secretary General demanding a seat in the UN General Assembly for 'Grill Nation'. If that wasn't zany enough KFC were also giving away free chicken to UN employees today and, counter intuitively, they have declared this coming Monday UNFryday. I can hardly contain myself with excitement.
Its all part of a big PR campaign to get the UN, and I guess everyone else, to 'UNTHINK their typical lunchtime routine'. Unfortunately most of the UNThinking was happening at Yum! Brands and at the offices of their high profile PR firm.
Udate: In his letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, KFC CEO Roger Eaton pledges:
As Secretary-General, you have pledged to build a “stronger United Nations for a better world.” We at KFC are confident that recognizing Grilled Nation will strengthen your organization and satisfy the stomachs of your many Member States.
So besides chicken snacks what are the hot issues for business at the UN these days? With only 44 days left before the UN climate negotiations get under way in Copenhagen I suspect Ban Ki-moon is rather more looking to businesses to help 'seal the deal' than he is 'unthinking' with clowning brand mascots for the sake of a free fast food lunch.
The stunt at the UN unnecessarily opened up Yum! brands for criticism of its sustainability record from the likes of Inner City press who reported:
Ironically, just next to the Security Council in the UN's briefing room, the UN's expert on transnational corporation and Human Rights John Ruggie explained his mandate to the Press. ………. KFC, whose Col. Sanders as one wag joked bitterly may have killed, through heart congestion and attacks, as many people as some of those indicted by the International Criminal Court, despite not being a military and therefore not a war criminal despite the Colonel in his name. The wag imagined a sign board or campaign, "Send KFC to the ICC."
A shame really especially since with a cursory read through Yum! Brand's sustainability report and one discovers that the company is doing some cool things including:
- Yum! Brand's restaurants will become the first in the US to publish calorie information on menus
- Score 20% better than the national average for lost time injuries - a leading indicator for employee morale and occupational safety
- Removed all trans fats from its food products since 2007
- In the UK KFC is partnering with Compassion in World Farming to address animal rights issues and with Carbon Trust to set a 2012 goal of a 10% CO2 cut.
My advice to Yum! Brands and KFC that they didn't get from their PR firm? The UN General Assembly is an assembly of nations and it has no place for KFC or its 'grill nation'. Instead Yum! Brands might take up the challenge to commit itself to the UN Global Compact's10 principles for corporate sustainability:
- Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence; and
- make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
- Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
- Businesses should uphold the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.
- Businesses should uphold the effective abolition of child labour.
- Businesses should uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
- Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
- Businesses should undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
- Businesses should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
- Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
So after UNFryday will Yum! Brands take up the challenge of UN Global Compact Tuesday? If they are up for it the registration forms can be found here. Here's hoping.