Oh, Paula. Really?

Shame on you. And you, too, Novo Nordisk.

I just can’t stand what you’re both doing to your brands. It feels dirty.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on, yesterday Paula Deen–the aptly dubbed “Queen of Southern Cuisine” for her ooey, gooey, buttery, sugary, doctors-look-away-please recipes–announced that she has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. You know, the kind that has a whole heck of a lot to do with lifestyle. Oh, and did I mention that she has known this for three years? And by the way, she also announced her paid partnership with Novo Nordisk as a spokesperson for its diabetes drugs.

Lots of celebrities do this, right?

This is different, and here’s why I think so. As I consider other celebrity endorsements of products and programs, all of the examples that come to mind involve some type of change. Kirstie Alley finds (and founds) new weight loss programs all the time and regardless of her level of success, she’s trying to fix the problem by changing her behavior. Jared endorses Subway as a healthier alternative to his former food choices. He changed his eating habits to combat a problem. In these cases, there’s a problem and a solution. There is an intent to fix something that doesn’t work and eliminate the problem. No one continues to promote one of the factors that caused the problem in the first place.

Except Paula.

Step one: show people how to cook delicious, decadent, really unhealthy food. Promote it on TV and make lots of money with cookbooks and supporting items. Further promote your brand in your restaurant by serving those same recipes in staggering quantities. So far, I’m okay with this. I’m in control of what I put into my body. After all, I’m not mad at McDonald’s for serving Extra Value Meals that surpass my daily caloric requirement; I just don’t usually eat them.

Step two: Get diagnosed with a serious health problem, one that millions of other people share. I’m still okay. Everyone needs a wake-up call sometimes. Here comes the rub, though.

Step three: Instead of diving in and making the changes necessary to mitigate or eliminate the problem, endorse a drug that manages the problem, all the while continuing with the behaviors that got you there in the first place.

If you still don’t get my point, consider this. Though she just went public yesterday, Paula has known of her condition for three years. All that time, she has been glibly promoting and profiting from the very behavior that got her there (or at least helped). She’s also pushing a drug that she might not need if she were to change her lifestyle. Eat more fattening, unhealthy food–gain weight–get diabetes–take this drug so you can continue doing the same. It’s like encouraging people to get sick so you can sell them the drug to make them better.

Paula’s making money on both sides, and Novo Nordisk is happily reaping the benefit of her efforts. All I see is damage to the integrity of both brands. To be credible, a person or company can’t support opposing causes.

So which will it be, Paula? Decadent food choices? Or healthy living? Pick one side and go with it. You can’t have it both ways.

Note: Although the main theme of this post is brand integrity, I am shocked, dismayed, and disappointed at this example of the health and nutrition issues facing our country. It reminds me of the movie Wall-E, where instead of working to fix a problem, everyone worked to accommodate it. So much wasted effort.