Challenging Dogma - Spring 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Critique of the Candie’s Foundation by Utilizing Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle Theory – Janis Scanlon Rice

The Candie’s Foundation
The Candie’s Foundation is a “non-profit organization that works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood” [1]. The Candie’s Foundation’s intervention is strictly a communication campaign that is aimed at raising awareness about teen pregnancy. They believe that their success of the campaign and intervention is that they expose teenagers, both male and female, in two different ways. The foundation reaches teens “simultaneously at the macro level – pop culture about teen pregnancy and parenting – and the micro level – individual skills and behaviors” [1] with their national ad campaign and by sharing their message with community-level teen prevention programs.
With extensive research of the Candie’s Foundation, no current statement was found regarding the previously mentioned community-level teen prevention programs. Thus the focus of this critique will be Candie’s Foundation national communication campaign. This advertisement campaign is based upon celebrities – public figures who teenagers can relate to – as the unique way to target teenagers. The foundation has had numerous celebrities who endorse the prevention of teenage pregnancy message. These celebrities include Ciara, Fergie, Fall Out Boy, Usher, Destiny’s Child, Rihanna, and Brisol Palin (the daughter of the former vice presidential candidate), the lastest public figure to be included.
The slogan of the advertisement intervention is “pause before you play” [1] To the organization, this slogan implies teenagers to “pause to think about [their] future; pause to think about consequences; pause to evaluate your relationship; pause to delay sex; pause to get a condom; pause to ask ‘why now?’” These message and slogan can be seen in the Candie’s Foundation’s print and video advertisements with celebrity names and faces attached to the message. The videos advertisements are of teenagers about to engage in sexual activity and then a celebrity figure interrupts the teenagers to tell them the consequences of an infant – a stroller, a crib, or a crying and demanding baby. The print advertisements reiterate this message by showing a stroller, crib, or a baby bottle asking the question: not what you had in mind? Palin’s most recent addition to the campaign has allowed the Candie’s Foundation to demonstrate the difficulties of raising a child. These advertisements show Palin in a non-glamorous fashion, disheveled, and devastated by the conditions around her.

The Golden Circle Model
A marketing and branding model by Simon Sinek, The Golden Circle Model is an alternate perspective that “codifies three distinct and interdependent elements that make any person or organization function at its highest ability” [2]. These three elements – what, how and why – can be connected in 3 intertwined circles.

The definition of WHAT is self-explanatory, as “every single company and organization on the planet knows what they do” [3]. HOW is defined as what the company or organization does differently or better. WHY, the most essential element of this model, is defined as a company’s purpose, cause or belief; as in “WHY does your company exist? And WHY should anyone care?” [3].
The basis of this model is the novel idea of marketing an organization from the inside of the Golden Circle outward. This novel idea is in stark contrast to traditional marketing and branding campaigns that start from the outside, at WHAT, and moving inward. The Golden Circle model is based on human decision-making and biology. The WHY portion is parallel to the limbic brain, which is the decision-making and emotional portion of the brain. The WHAT is processed in the neocortex portion of the brain, where language and rationale is processed.

Debunking the Health Belief Model Using the Golden Circle Model
Since the The Candie’s Foundation is associated with and founded by the CEO of the Iconix Brand Group [1], one would think that this foundation would use advertising or marketing theory in their public health internvention. However, the organization’s print and commercial advertisements use the Health Belief Model as their model to change behavior in teenagers, just like a lot of other public health interventions. The Health Belief Model that “include[s] six determinants of behavior: perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, perceived barriers, health motivation, and cues to action” [4]. It is implied in the Health Belief Model that the benefits outweigh the costs; thus, causing health motivation and cues to action for behavior change. The theme of the Candie’s Foundation advertisements is raising awareness of the realities of teen parenthood; hence, the ads increase the perceived severity. For instance, print ads state, “And you think being in school sucks? You know what sucks a whole lot more? A baby,” “Raising a baby can cost over $10,000 a year; one night can cost you more than you think,” and “Not really the way you pictured your first crib, huh? Get pregnant and you won’t be moving out of your parents house anytime soon” [1]. These themes and wording, of devastating consequences of parenthood and limiting teenage freedom, are the same in the video campaigns as well. According to the Health Belief Model, as teenagers adopt the increased perceived severity, their behavior change to prevent teen pregnancy as the benefits of the behavior change outweighs the cost.
One major criticism of the Health Belief Model is that “it does not include the influence of peers and peer norms in predicting late adolescent and emerging adult sexual behaviors” [5]. The Candie’s Foundation had thought that they are capable of changing teenage culture as they “go beyond raising awareness; [their] goal is to influence teen culture” [1]. Ironically, the organization is using a behavior change model that does not include cultural or social norms at its core.
Applying the Golden Circle to the Health Belief Model, this type of campaign, the targeted audience of teenagers is forced to begin their decisions at WHAT. “We’re forced to make these less-than-inspiring decisions for one simple reason – companies don’t offer us anything else besides the facts and figures, features and benefits upon which to base our decisions” [3]. Hence, the advertisements only offer teenagers statistics, not a belief or a reason WHY, and that is what they base their sexual practice decision on. As proven by the Candie’s Foundation advertisements, the Health Belief Model does not function within the Golden Rule Model because the Health Belief Model begins at WHAT and does not offer WHY.

The Candie’s Foundation’s Failure to Adopt the Golden Circle Model
The Candie’s Foundation, as a whole, has failed to adopt the Golden Circle; and thus it has failed to effectively change teenage pregnancy and parenthood perceived severity and therefore has not been able to change teenage sexual behavior and pregnancy health outcomes. Three aspects – the organization, the intervention, and the celebrities who endorse it – do not align with the Golden Circle core values; hence, an explanation to the campaign’s disappointment and failure to engage teenagers in the prevention of parenthood and pregnancy.
First, the Candie’s Foundation is very clear as to WHAT it does. It is an organization that “works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood...[and it] develops and runs communication campaigns to raise awareness about, and motivate teens to prevent, teen pregnancy” [1] It is also very clear HOW they raise awareness with their ad campaigns – “our approach is unique: all of our ads use celebrities that teens can relate to, in a style that speaks to teens on their own terms” [1].
However, it becomes unclear when trying to define the purpose of the organization, the WHY. Some may define the WHY as “teen pregnancy prevention” or “teenage motherhood is bad.” Yet, when one more leading question of “why” is asked – why is teen parenthood bad? Why is teen pregnancy prevention needed? -- the belief of WHY is exposed. The organization has advertisements that answer these questions with statistics of how much an infant costs or how many teenagers will become pregnant in a year. These are statistics that appeal to the logic and rational portion of the human brain – the neocortex or the WHAT of the Golden Circle. Thus, the Candie’s Foundation has failed to brand itself from the inside out. It has failed “to communicate a sense of WHY forc[ing] us to make decisions with only empirical evidence” [3].
Secondly, the intervention of the advertisement campaign with the motto “pause before you play” has its own inconsistencies when compared to the Golden Circle as well. For instance, the WHAT is defined as raising awareness about the realities of teen parenthood. In terms of the HOW, the campaign utilizes the Health Belief Model, which, as already previously mentioned in this paper, does not adhere to the Golden Rule, to convey their message. The advertisements, in order to increase perceived severity of teen parenthood, have a tone of devastation, desolation, loneliness, and isolation. This tone also apart to the advertisments’ WHY – teen pregnancy is bad as it will lead you to devastation of finances and social possibilities. However, this tone is not congruent with the Golden Circle as “[w]e are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe” [3]. The tone does not create a sense of belonging; it does not make us feel special, safe.
Lastly, the celebrities and the motivation behind their Candie’s Foundation endorsements are not congruent with the Golden Rule. Taken at face value, celebrities are promoting themselves and the “pause before you play” motto as WHAT they do. They utilize their public image and notoriety to relate to the teenage target audience as HOW they promote the motto and their image.
Yet, once again, the main concern is the WHY – why do these celebrities believe in this campaign? Why should teenagers believe what the celebrities are promoting? Sinek states that in order for an audience to believe an organization, everything an organization says and everything an organization does have to prove what it believes. Thus, the celebrities who endorse the Candie’s Foundation must also say and act in accordance with the message. However, the organization has used a poor choice of celebrities. These celebrities do not follow the idea they need to adhere to the belief of the “pause before you play” matt in all aspects of their public lives.
One celebrity, a singer Ciara, is in commercials and print ads. In all of these campaigns she’s promoting the idea of delaying sexual intercourse in teenagers by demonstrating that a baby crib is not a teenager’s ideal house or “crib.” However, in her music, she promotes sexual acts as ways to entice the male sex, as exemplified in the lyrics and music video of “Love, Sex, Magic” [6]. The lyrics allude to sexual acts like, “And I'll be flowing, and going til clothing disappears and nothing but shoes on me” In this video, the singer has very much sexualized herself and put in sexual positions with the male counterpart in the music video. The disconnect between Ciara’s “pause before you play” person and her musical persona creates a cloudy WHY in her endorsement.
Another “celebrity” (or in more realistic terms, public figure), Palin allude to an undefined WHY belief in her endorsement of the Candie’s Foundation. Palin, herself a single teenage mother, seems like a logical choice to demonstrate to other teenagers the devastating effects of motherhood at a young age. However, sources released Palin’s salary of $262,500 for her work on this campaign [7-9]. This extremely high salary for a single teenage mother allows Palin’s teenage audince to question actually why she is doing the “pause before you play” campaign. Is it because the damage of teenage parenthood actually true? Probably not – the high salary alludes to the fact Palin is doing the campaign for money, the WHAT.
There is no WHY for the audience to believe in and adhere to with the conflict of celebrities’ message and their public life. “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.” Ciara and Palin demonstrate that the Candie’s Foundation have hired skilled people, their public celebrity status and tried to motivate them. However, they have failed to find endorsers who are motivated and are inspired by the organization. Thus, the Candie’s Foundation and its celebrity endorsers are moving from the WHAT to the HOW to the cloudy WHY, causing the teenage audience not to buy the product, or in this case, the message of increased perceived severity of teenage pregnancy.

The Golden Circle and a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Intervention
According to Sinek, a perfection decision and behavior change would start with WHY, the emotional element of the decision, and then the rational components allowing the consumer to verbalize and rationalize the reason for their decisions. This theory that is utilized in the proposed changes to the Candie’s Foundation and its teen pregnancy prevention campaign. I propose an overhaul to the entire organization, including the foundation’s core values, the motto and type of advertisements, and the people who endorse the campaign.
First, a change to the foundation’s core would need to be implemented that is specifically about the Candie’s Foundation belief and WHY people should believe in their message without utilizing any statistics or logic. The belief or purpose of the foundation should be more about the inherent worth of teenagers and their opinions and the foundation should value teenagers’ importance in society. In the new proposed organization, the Candie’s Foundation would utilize inspiring normalized teen stories in an ad campaign. Teenagers are talking to other teenagers and peers or celebrities are not talking down to teenagers. Moving outward in the Golden Circle, the WHAT of the foundation can be the same as the former as it “works to shape the way youth in America think about teen pregnancy and parenthood...[and it] develops and runs communication campaigns.” The way it shapes the youth in America and the communication campaigns must be in line with the WHY -- the worth of teenagers -- of the foundation. The overhaul in the foundation will allow the Candie’s Foundation to function at its highest as it will inspire the targeted teenage audience because the new foundation functions from the inside of the Golden Circle and outwards.
Secondly, a change to the advertisement model in the Candie’s Foundation would dispose of the Health Belief Model and adopt the new WHY of the foundation. In order to so, the print ads and commercials should focus on the positive aspects of being a teenager, their worth and what they enjoy. According to Sinek, good marketing offers us a view of the world, starts with a cause, promotes values, uses the products to help tell a story, and is about the audience [10]. These print ads and commercials would start with a cause (the inherent worth of teenagers and their opinions and the foundation should value teenagers’ importance in society), present their view of the world, tell common teenager stories and is about the teenage community and not the problem of teenage pregnancy and parenthood. Advertisements would feature similar stories to the familiar Apple “Hi, I’m a Mac” campaign that fosters inclusion and self-belonging among its consumers [3]. Possible mottos could include “What I want, when I want it” or “I love being me. ________.” These mottos would emphasize the value of the teenage years. They would also create a belief system for teenagers to value themselves and their age demographic (the HOW) as a self-protective factor against teen pregnancy (the WHAT). Thus, the advertisements themselves, and the movement from WHY to HOW to WHAT, would follow the Golden Circle Model.
Lastly, I propose that the Candie’s Foundation change the faces that endorse their campaign and motto. The organization must “work with people who believe what you believe” [3] in order for the target audience to adopt what you believe and create a following of the organization. Thus, the highly sexualized singer, Ciara, and highly paid teen mother, Palin, who cannot fully supportive their public persona with the organization would be removed. I suggest that the new version of the Candie’s Foundation find teenagers who can explicitly state why they value being a teenager, why is a teenager’s positive purpose in society – the emotional WHY portion. When the foundation can find people who articulate this (the HOW), then they can utilize these teenagers to endorse the campaign. These teenagers should be motivated people who are inspired by the mottos and work to promote the lifestyle of the campaign (the WHAT).

In conclusion, the Candie’s Foundation and its teenage pregnancy prevention campaign of “pause before you play” does not effectively change teenage sexual health behaviors because it does not utilize the Golden Circle Model. A proposed overhaul of the organization would adhere to the Golden Circle Model in which the Candie’s Foundation operates from WHY to HOW to WHAT. The proposed intervention of an overhaul to the foundation and an advertisement campaign that focuses on teenager’s life and their value to society would be the best way to utilize Sinek’s novel marketing model in a public health forum.

1. The Candie’s Foundation. New York, NY.
2. Start with Why. New York, NY: Simon Sinek.
3. Sinek S. Start With Why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009.
4. Armitage CJ and Conner M. Social cognition models and health behaviour: a structured review. Psychology & Health 2000; 15:173-189.
5. Boone TL and Lefkowitz ES. Safer Sex and the Health Belief Model. Psychology & Human Sexuality 2004; 16:51-68.
6. Ciara. LaFace Records.
7. Fang, Lee. Bristol Palin’s Nonprofit Paid Her Seven Times What it Spent on Actual Teen Pregnancy Prevention.
8. Walshe, Shushannah. Bristol Palin’s Outrageous Payday.
9. Bristol Pailin earns $262K fro teen pregnancy work. Associated Press: Rachel D’oro.
10. Good Marketing vs. Bad Marketing. Start With Why. New York, NY: Simon Sinek.

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