MSG maker starts campaign aimed at debunking ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’: Marketer’s Brief
Welcome to the latest edition of Marketer's Brief, a quick take on marketing news, moves and trends from Ad Age's reporters and editors. Send tips/suggestions to [email protected]. And to get the latest news as it happens, sign up for Ad Age newsletters here, including CMO Strategy.
Ajinomoto, the Japanese maker of seasonings including MSG, is speaking up against Merriam-Webster and what it says is an outdated and discriminatory term in the dictionary. It lined up some American celebrities with Asian heritage to spread the word against the use of the phrase “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” Chef, restaurateur and comedian Eddie Huang, whose memoir was the basis for the “Fresh Off The Boat” series, and TV host Jeannie Mai are joined by a doctor in a new video from Edelman.
Merriam-Webster says the phrase “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” has been around since 1968 and, as the video shows, defines it as “a group of symptoms (such as numbness of the neck, arms, and back with headache, dizziness, and palpitations) that is held to affect susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate.”
Huang says the phrase “is really ignorant.” Mai rhetorically asks, “you know what gives me a headache? Racism.” MSG has been bashed for years, even as doctors (including the one in the video) call it safe. Now, Ajinomoto is using the social video and tweets directed at Merriam-Webster in an attempt to do something about it. The push gives Ajinomoto a fresh way to tell people about its MSG products and how MSG is found in other items people might not expect, including ranch dressing. It just so happens to have launched at the same time as reports about McDonald’s use of MSG in its new chicken sandwich.
Dunkin’ with the D-O-Double-G
Snoop Dogg, like many among us, thinks a sandwich is better when the bread is replaced by doughnuts. That’s the premise of Dunkin’s limited-time Beyond D-O-Double-G sandwich, which shoves Beyond Meat’s meatless breakfast sausage patty, egg and cheese between a sliced glazed Dunkin’ doughnut. The sandwich is only available Jan. 13 to 19, but after that Dunkin’ is keeping its partnership with the rapper going with an online shop featuring apparel such as a green tracksuit similar to the one he wears in the company’s current commercial, which comes from BBDO, and plans to give away regular Beyond sausage sandwiches on Jan. 24 and 25. Lest you think Snoop Dogg is hyping this just because he’s a Dunkin’ fan, think again. He’s also one of Beyond Meat’s investors.
Questlove, who invested in rival fake meat maker Impossible Foods, also weighed in on Twitter.
And Questlove has his own sandwich at a smaller chain. Fresh&co on Wednesday announced Questlove’s Cheesesteak, with Impossible meat, cheese sauce and banana pepper relish on an Amoroso’s roll (not a doughnut).
A risky business
Amid the hoopla of Casper’s IPO filing last week was one detail that marketers should have noticed. The direct-to-consumer mattress brand, which counts Target and Lerer Hippeau as stockholders, listed the use of social media and influencers as a risk for the company. “Influencers with whom we maintain relationships could also engage in behavior or use their platforms to communicate directly with our customers in a manner that reflects poorly on our brand and may be attributed to us or otherwise adversely affect us,” reported Casper in its SEC filing, adding that reviews with misleading information could further damage the brand’s reputation. Since 2016, Casper has invested $422.8 million in marketing. It will be interesting to see how much of that pie continues to go toward risky influencers when the company goes public.
Molson Coors invests in Mich Ultra fighter
Molson Coors already owns two highly advertised light beers: Coors Light and Miller Lite. Now the brewer is putting more media behind another light brew—Saint Archer Gold. A new spot by Preacher, which won the account in 2018, will run in a significant number of local Fox affiliates during the Super Bowl.
Molson Coors can’t buy national Super Bowl ads because Anheuser-Busch InBev has exclusive beer ad rights in the game. While Miller Lite and Coors Light are positioned as mainstream beers, Saint Archer is trying to carve out space in the premium market. Saint Archer is a San Diego-based craft brewery that MillerCoors, now called Molson Coors, acquired in 2015. The brew is a Helles-style light lager with 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounces. The company is using the brew to compete with Michelob Ultra, according to a corporate blog post. Ultra will have two national ads in the Super Bowl.
For more on the latest Super Bowl ad trends, check out this week’s edition of the Marketer’s Brief podcast:
Minding your carbon tracks
As consumers become increasingly more mindful about waste and sustainability in fashion, ThredUp, the online consignment and thrift store, has a new tool designed to help them along. The retailer debuted a “Fashion Footprint Calculator” on Wednesday. Shoppers can answer questions about when and how they buy clothes and how often they do laundry in order to determine how much carbon their closet generates on an annual basis. According to ThredUp, the average consumer racks up 1,620 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. “While it’s universally known that fashion pollution is a problem, we were surprised to find that most consumers don’t think their individual clothing choices matter,” said Erin Wallace, VP of integrated marketing at ThredUp, in a statement.
Would you buy this?
Toy maker Douglas Co. is out with a new line of plushies, Foodie Macaroons, that marry animals with food. This 7-inch Corgi Burger Macaroon even has lettuce and tomato.
Number of the week
7 percent: How much Target’s stock price fell in trading by Wednesday late afternoon, following news that the retailer’s holiday season missed analyst sales expectations.
Tweet of the week
Comings and goings
Jack in the Box promoted Adrienne Ingoldt to the role of senior VP, chief brand and experience officer, from VP of marketing communications; and Jennifer Kennedy to senior VP, chief product and innovation officer, from VP of product marketing.
Victor Lee, the chief marketing officer of RXBar, is leaving the Kellogg Co. unit after one year, Ad Age confirmed. Lee declined to comment.
Lululemon Athletica Inc. tapped Nikki Neuburger as its new chief brand officer, effective Jan. 20. Neuburger formerly worked as global head of marketing at Uber Eats.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center appointed Roxanne Taylor as chief marketing and communications officer, starting Feb. 3. She had been working as a board director and advisor to a variety of companies.
Contributing: Jessica Wohl, Adrianne Pasquarelli, E.J. Schultz