April 10, 2013

KFC + JDRF: Still a bad idea

Did you follow the recent news about a fundraising partnership between a KFC franchise in Utah and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation? You may have seen this photo traveling around the Web and Facebook.

People were upset to see KFC making donations to JDRF from the proceeds of giant, sugary sodas, which are typically not part of a healthy diet, especially for someone with diabetes or trying to avoid it.

Or is that even true? Well, JDRF's response to one blogger was this:

"Regarding this particular promotion, we understand that one of the criticisms has been the association with a sugary product, which many have associated with contributing to diabetes. It’s important to note that JDRF supports research for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that results when the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, therefore requiring a child or adult with the disease to depend on insulin treatment for the rest of their lives. It is a common misconception that type 1 diabetes is caused by obesity or eating too much junk food or sweets."

Well guess what, JDRF: You have two uphill battles on your hands here.

1. The general public doesn't know what kind of research you support.

2. Even if the general public knew that your research is on type 1 diabetes, they don't know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

This is a perfect example of the "curse of knowledge," a phrase coined by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick.

The curse of knowledge happens when we know something (usually something obscure or industry-based that is not common knowledge) and we assume others know it. Then we interact with them as though they know it, losing and confusing them in the process, and getting frustrated ourselves at how "ignorant" they are.

JDRF can be frustrated with the public for not knowing that there's no connection between type 1 diabetes and a giant, sugary soda, but most people who have heard of diabetes assume "diabetes is diabetes." They know the word, they know a lot of people are at risk of it because of poor diet, and they see this as a bad fundraising campaign.

And the public isn't wrong. Because if that's the working knowledge of diabetes that the public has, then JDRF has the responsibility to change that. It's JDRF's job to educate the public about the different types of diabetes and about the work they're doing, if they don't want to court controversy in their fundraising campaigns.

It's true that this was just ONE franchise in Utah that JDRF partnered with. But look at how far the story spread. Look at how many news outlets covered it (Google kfc jdrf to see what I mean). People are not informed about the causes of diabetes, and therefore JDRF partnering with KFC to sell giant sodas is still a bad idea.

Remember this, speakers: We all have some kind of knowledge that others don't have - it's why we're invited to present in the first place. It becomes a curse when we fail to recognize that what is obvious to us is completely opaque to someone else. Then we have miscommunication, resentment, confusion, frustration and maybe an Internet uprising on our hands!

More on the curse of knowledge:

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The curse is back!

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