Following the unfortunate realization that celebrity Chef Paula Deen has used racial slurs in the past and as a result of public backlash, many of Deen’s partners have cut ties with the Food Network Star. But a campaign has emerged to save the star, Butter Wrappers for Paula Deen.
Despite soaring sales after the news broke that Deen had used racial slurs in the past and wanted a “traditional plantation style wedding,” Random House dropped her book deal. Food Network, the foundation of Paula Deen’s fame and the platform that made her a household name also dropped the contract, which was up for renewal.
But despite all the backlash and the business decisions to stop doing business with someone who appears to be a bigot—regardless of whether she actually is or not—a campaign has developed to support the sweet Southern grandma.
Butterforpaula.org was started by John Schmitt, a hotel auditor in Indianapolis. He also started the We Support Paula Deen Facebook Page. The Butter For Paula campaign relies on the idea that “a company without butter is like a wrapper without butter.” It asks fans to send butter wrappers with notes to these companies asking for support of Paula.
The Facebook page celebrates UGC content, encourages involvement in many of Deen’s initiatives, including a charity called the Bag Lady Foundation.
Why I’m Curious
This is an example of the power of fandoms that can only be created through compelling stories or personalities. Fandoms remain extremely loyal, even in times of bad. Think about the fandom that got the Veronica Mars movie funded in a matter of days too. Here a fandom rallies with real UGC content that takes actual effort to rally behind Deen’s brand. In advertising, we try to find commonalities with our loyalists, but it’s difficult to build the same kind of love and connection with a brand. Brands need to study how and why fandoms get so passionate about characters and what motivates them to create original content around them.