As an American, I had never heard of the Triple J Hottest 100 until I spent my first full summer in Australia in the beginning of 2014. That and, when I did learn of it, it genuinely seemed like a real way for people to vote for their favourite song and have a happy Australia Day. It’s not fair that social media sites like BuzzFeed then get to insert themselves into people's lives uninvited thinking they can “troll the poll.” It’s not like Taylor Swift was paying them to get her song on the list - she’d be there anyways. Not only has the international pop culture community watched her personal brand grow from quiet and shy country musician into strong and dedicated young woman, but it has also watched her lyrics and stories shine through people’s poor behaviours. Taylor is the face of resilience, and she will overcome this obstacle as well.
(Source: KFC Facebook Page)
So I bet you want to more about what really happened? Well, it seems like with the image above, KFC decided to publicise their vote for the Hottest 100. This raises advertising and ethical questions, similar to topics we worked through in our Ethics and Regulatory Environment unit. What right does KFC own to this image? Does Taylor Swift’s Public Relations representatives even know her face and reputation is being used in this fashion? Does Taylor even approve of the message being used as her words? These are all common marketing problems facing not only Taylor’s personal brand, but also her business affiliations and reputation. Funnily enough, I would actually compare this advertising practice to political campaigning in the USA. Kind of putting words in people’s mouths and claiming that one or another certain person approves of the message. Additionally, while it may be a good idea to sometimes use celebrities as brand ambassadors, I wonder if Taylor Swift would ever even consider eating KFC food? I think this brand overstepped their advertising boundaries here.
Next, Triple J claimed that Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” would have only made 12th place on the list, but chances are people didn’t vote for it who would have when they found out it was disqualified the day before Australia Day. Additionally, rumour has it that at least one of the songs in the top 10 of the Hottest 100 had never even been played on the station’s airwaves. Isn’t that saying something? People may like a certain song, and have voted for it, yet that song didn’t get requested, nor played by the company the whole past year? Credit should be given where it’s due, especially if Taylor didn’t promote, or probably even know, about what was going on and how people were using her name and image.
Copyrighting and Trademarking are so important in the marketing world, and although no official lawsuits have happened in this instance, they could have. It is important as marketers that we know the limitation of our brands and advertising power. Someone is probably getting fired over at KFC right now, when they could have done a little bit of research to find out about how their customers would have liked to see them display their support for the big day.
So note for BuzzFeed…. hire some real and ethical marketers to make sure you’re not ruining people’s brands, reputations or businesses. Even Triple J looks bad because you thought you had the authority to tell them and their listeners what they wanted to hear or vote for. The sun may not have been shining this Australia Day, but I was still rocking out to Tay Tay and I’m sure she’s going to shake you off because the haters gunna hate, hate, hate, hate.
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School