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PR Fail: Long John Silver's 'Big Catch' is Fishy Branding
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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In case you missed it: There has been a big brouhaha over people who just can't seem to put away the baby fat. That said, it makes sense that you would see several retailers and restaurants capitalize on the reinvigorated sense of health in America. Well, all of them except for Long John Silver's. No, when news came out that obesity was a disease, the purveyors of the hush puppy screamed "Ahoy mateys!" 

Why? They knew a bonanza to reach their demographic awaited. 

Meet "The Big Catch." Despite the perfunctory copywriting found on its website, said "Big Catch" has been voted "the worst meal in America" by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). For a national launch of a new fast-food meal, the last thing any brand would need is a bunch of nerd ne'er-do-wells telling the country that your meal sucked more than the rest of them. And who cares if Long John Silver's is the home for Lent? This isn't going to help anyone walk through ye olde front doors. 

"Long John Silvers' Big Catch meal deserves to be buried 20,000 leagues under the sea," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "This company is taking perfectly healthy fish — and entombing it in a thick crust of batter and partially hydrogenated oil. The result? A heart attack on a hook. Instead of the Big Catch, I'd call it America's Deadliest Catch." 

Cute, Mr. Jacobson. Punny much? Aside from the pre-rehearsed in the shower speech, he's got a point. Check out these numbers discovered by the CSPI: 
  • Haddock, battered and fried
  • Side dishes: green beans, hush puppies, onion rings, coleslaw, French fries, rice, or corn
  • 33 grams of trans fat (That's more than two weeks' worth to you, me, and the rest of America)
  • 19 grams of saturated fat
  • 3,700 milligrams of sodium
  • 1,320 calories
And this cardiac clutch on a platter can be yours for only $4.99. Quite a bargain for anyone who is interested in battered fish and suicide, right? In a crafty press release (at least, that's what they called it), Long John Silver's offered its own position:

Long John Silver’s Big Catch is a limited time only special that delivers tremendous value to value hungry consumers...Long John Silver’s offers a variety of meal choices including baked fish and shrimp that can satisfy almost every diner’s dietary choices. We stand behind our published food data and will review any requests from CSPI that raise questions about our data.

If that is the only show of defense against the dietary haters out there, good luck keeping that job. Speaking of which, I'd like to meet the executive chef. Perhaps he will be featured on an episode of 'Hoarders' soon?

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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