Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New York State Of Mind

Last night while watching Keith Olbermann (in the interest of full disclosure), I saw a commercial for KFC. The point of the commercial was to tout the fact that their product now has no trans fat. This prompted an interesting discussion at my house (where, again in the interest of full disclosure, both of the adult family members write for this blog).

We speculated that, because KFC’s franchises in New York City had to comply with the city’s recently-implemented ban on trans fats in restaurants, a corporate decision was made that it would be easier just to change the formula across the board rather than to create a separate formula for New York City locations. Having done so, KFC now gets to boast to its customers nationwide that its products have improved in this respect. Since it seems that people in this country are indeed becoming increasingly concerned about such things (a concern that seems to flourish even as our body types are reportedly becoming increasingly endomorphic, but that’s a different topic), I would imagine that this change earns KFC some points that may translate into market share, at least in places where its competitors are not required to do the same thing. Certainly it looks like that’s what KFC is hoping.

This stands in contrast to what I understand goes on in the automobile market where, due to stricter emission standards in California (and perhaps a few other places), cars made for sale there are actually different from cars made for sale in other states. Auto makers apparently have so far found it more appealing to comply with multiple sets of standards, rather than to comply with the strictest one and tout their cars as more “green”. But, at least at the moment, it’s almost as trendy and desirable to be “green” as it is to be “fat-free”.

If KFC’s marketing campaign bears fruit, I wonder if it is translatable to other areas -- auto emissions is one that comes to mind; smoking restrictions is another; undoubtedly there are others. If so, seemingly unique or outlying regulations from left-leaning places like New York City or California could have a much greater impact on consumer goods and services than their geographic limits would suggest. And this impact will be caused by, of all things, the fact that maybe it turns out that market forces “like” these regulations after all. I have to say it makes me smile.

15 comments:

egarber said...

Speaking as someone who works in cable television, I must say that it's possible the ad was part of a buy on your local cable operator, and NOT national. Do you have Time Warner Cable? I'm not sure how MSNBC splits its time.

But assuming it was a national ad, I'm thinking the threshold for any company is cost. If it's basically a wash to sub out one fat product for another, perhaps KFC thought it made sense to just switch out everything.

Cars and other items may be a different story however, depending on the replacement costs.

Kenji said...

I wouldn't smile yet. There is increasing evidence that various forms of trans-fat bans are simply forcing producers to switch to other bad ingredients (e.g., back to saturated fat). Unlike the Califoria emission standards, which generally lead to greener cars, trans-fat bans do not necessarily make food products healthier.

egarber said...

To clarify my post, the cable operator comment assumes you live in NY.

Adrienne B. Koch said...

I of course couldn't say for certain that the advertisement was national; however, since all restaurants in New York City are required to remove trans fats, to advertise the absence of trans fats in New York City is a bit like saying the water is free with your meal. That said, this wouldn't be the first time a company touted something about its product that really wasn't different from anyone else's version (I've been told, for example, that all coffee is "mountain grown").

Michael said...

egarber~
I saw the same ad in CA today so at the bare minimum it is something targeted at "left-leaning areas."

egarber said...

Michael,

Unless CA has a similar law, I'd guess that means it's a national buy.

Thanks.

Benjam said...

this is why it makes sense for a political liberal to espouse a vigorous 10th amendment jurisprudence. from my standpoint, i'd be happy to countenance more conservative policies in alabama and texas if we could have more progressive politics in NY and california. i certainly dont want to see fundamental rights denied to citizens of other states, but i guess i'd be willing to trade the results in lopez for the results in raich.

"they" can let guns close to schools and "we" can legalize medical marijuana without fear of the feds. its the classic idea of a marketplace of ideas and i really have no doubt that it would foster progressive policies-- in the short term liberal states could adopt more liberal rules and over the long term, conservative states would see that the liberal states are kicking their collective ass.

Derek said...

If the new non-trans fat recipe tastes different from the trans fat recipe that might be a reason why KFC was motivated to switch across the board whereas auto makers weren't. That is, fast food restaurants trade on people being able to get the same yummy flavor no matter which franchise branch they walk into. If the chicken tasted relevantly different in different places that might undermine some of KFC's appeal.

On the other hand, if it's just NYC where the chicken tastes different, that doesn't seem like such a big deal...

Craig J. Albert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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