New State Fair Food Facts List For Diabetics

2 Sep Blog Marque.001

     As a father of two daughters with Type 1 diabetes I know first hand the minefield that fairs and festivals are for eating and bolusing for insulin coverage.  

     Get it right, and it’s a wonderfully enjoyable day.  Get it wrong, and the entire family pays a price. But at best, getting it right is a guessing game.  Those nutritional food apps we carry on our smart phones cover commercially made food products, but not always the treats from the mini-donut stand at your state fair.

Fair Food 1

Health Partners dietitian Susan Marschke talking about the Cajun peel and eat shrimp as a zero-carb healthy food option at the Minnesota State Fair.

     Several years ago the dietitians at the International Diabetes Center in Minnesota published a Fair Food Facts list of all of the popular items at our Great Minnesota Get Together.  I produced a television story and a corresponding blog article about the list and to this day it is one of the most popular stories I’ve done.  But with constantly changing food items, the IDC team of dietitians decided to revisit and update their list.

   You’ll find the downloadable version at the top of this post.  

     “You look everywhere at the Fair and there’s somebody walking and eating food,” said Susan Marschke, a Registered Dietitian with Health Partners.

     “The one that surprises me is just anything that’s breaded and fried, like those fired Oreos or Twinkies, it’s already something that’s already really rich,” said Marschke.  

Food Facts 2.001

Figure 1

     Perhaps not all too surprising is those deep fried Oreo cookies are among the most popular novelty food items at the Minnesota State Fair.  The dietitians discovered they are also among the worst items on their new list. (Figure 1)   A serving of five cookies (because no one can eat just one) comes in at 108 carb and 891 calories. That’s a nutritional disaster for anyone watching carb intake, not to mention their calories. 

Fair Foods.003

Figure 2

     Equally as disastrous are the Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies.  Yes, they’re the most delicious food item at the State Fair, and it doesn’t help that one can buy them in an overflowing pail.  But just three of these small treats are 42 carb and 270 calories. (Figure 2)  By the time you add that to other snacks at the fair, that’s a lot of extra insulin to cover the carbs, and if you misjudge the dosage or bolus, that person is going to feel pretty sick in no time.  

     “So I think one of the first things to think about when you plan a trip to Fair for anyone is really, is to pick and choose the things you really like and are really special and eat a little bit of that and share some of it,” said Marschke.

     It’s pretty sound advice.

     No one, especially parents, are trying to take the fun out of going to the fair.  But finding the right foods and the right insulin coverage can make all the difference in having a great day, or a miserable day.

     Hopefully this new Fair Foods Facts guide can help.  Have fun!

Trump, Clinton and the Psychology of Fear

2 Aug Fear Blog.001

Fear Blog.001

     A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas created one of the greatest narratives of good vs. evil.  In a curious twist of art imitates life, the archetype is very much alive in the 2016 presidential race.  Darth Vader vs. the Jedi.  The dark side vs. light.  Fear vs. unity.

     The deep political divides in America skew the perception of who is Darth Vader.   To the significant number of voters who don’t trust the Clintons, it’s definitely ‘Crooked Hillary.’  Likewise, to  a majority of immigrants and highly educated Americans, it’s ‘Demagogue Donald.’

     However, the campaign strategies now cast in the nomination acceptance speeches of both candidates paint a stark electoral narrative based on fear.  And Trump has doubled down. Trump Clinton Fear.003

     “America is far less safe and the world is far less stable,” Trump told the Republican delegates and the nation.

     Trump painted a picture of lawlessness and rampant terrorism with the clock set at midnight and an illegal immigrant hiding in every closet.  “Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,” said Trump.

     As a campaign strategy, Trump’s politics of fear is grounded in well-established psychological and economic theory.  Psychologist Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University established in 1979 that people when presented with a set of known risks are more motivated by loss than gain.  The resulting research is called Prospect Theory and it won Kahneman the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.  In short, Prospect Theory holds we are motivated by fear.

     Trump’s campaign strategy is clearly to use fear as a factor in the complex decision making process that voters will go through in deciding whether they can commit to him in the voting booth.  His strategy is well grounded in the fact that the vast majority of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.  When combined with the consumer behavior Theory of Trying by Richard Bagozzi, it establishes a clear framework for leading voters on the path toward supporting Trump.

     In the Theory of Trying model, there are three dimensions of attitude. (Figure 1)   One is toward success, one is toward failure and the other is toward trying.   In Trump’s case the attitudes toward success include better pay, secure jobs and safer streets.  In other words—attitudes framed as personal and social gains.  

Trump Clinton Fear.001

Figure 1

     The attitudes toward failure include stagnant income, job insecurity, fear of crime and terrorism—Prospect Theory’s framing of loss.   All of those are balanced against the efficacy of trying supporting Trump based upon his reputation as a successful businessman, and the perception that he’s not a quitter and on our side.  All three of those attitudes combine to influence the behavior on whether to vote for Trump.

   Hillary Clinton has taken a different approach based not on fear, but the social norms of rejecting fear. Trump Clinton Fear.004

     In her speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination, Clinton exclaimed, “We are not afraid!”

     She spent considerable time reinforcing universally held social truths that America is not a nation of bullies, and that “we are stronger together.”   In supporting her central thesis, she quoted FDR in saying, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

     In forging such a strategy, Clinton is employing the Theory of Reasoned Action as advanced by Martin Fishbein and Icek Azjen.   This too, is a psychological consumer research theory based upon behavioral intentions and attitudes toward social norms and expectations.   In this model, the consumer/voter is weighing their behavior based on their attitudes toward Clinton, and their attitudes toward societal pressure. (Figure 2) 

Trump Clinton Fear.002

Figure 2


     The attitudes toward Clinton range from her experience and competence for the presidency, to her trustworthiness (or lack of) as a public figure.  The attitudes toward social norms include the notions that Americans stand up to bullies, that they don’t ban religions, and that Americans are stronger when they stand together.

     To be clear, Clinton is using her own fear factor.  One of the more striking passages from her acceptance speech implored voters to consider the risk of Donald Trump as president.

   “Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis,” Clinton said.  “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

     The tactic was stolen straight from the playbook of LBJ in 1964.  In that presidential campaign, President Johnson exploited the fears of a nation still jittery from the near apocalypse of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Republican nominee, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, had famously campaigned on the notion that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”   The Johnson campaign responded with an advertisement called “Daisy.”   The ad aired just once–so powerfully based in Prospect Theory that it never needed to air again.  LBJ won in a landslide.

     Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have laid out their archetypal strategies both grounded in solid behavioral theory.  Fear of loss is a strong psychological motivator and one that Trump clearly hopes is a message he can ride to the White House.  Clinton’s arguments based upon established social norms of working together and rejecting fear are equally as accessible in the minds of voters.  The wild card in all of this may come down to individual personalities.  In other words, do the powerful negative attitudes toward either Clinton or Trump actually swamp the attitudes towards loss and social expectations?

     We’ll find out on Election Day which theory “Trumps.”

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When Poor Crisis Communication Defeats Smart Branding–Trump and NC in Cleveland

20 Jul Trump Blog Still.001


Trump Blog Still.001

     In a presidential campaign that has been anything but predictable, strategic and organized, Donald Trump has finally put together a surprisingly strong branding strategy for the Republican National Convention.  And then watched it blow up.

     The Trump campaign and the RNC have gone to great lengths to brand each day of the convention with an overarching platform central to the Trump campaign.

     In marketing and branding parlance, the Trump camp and the RNC are very shrewdly appealing to personal core values: keep me safe, save my job, save my country, united we stand.  The clear goal is to reinforce these core values to build to the Trump brand promise of strong leadership to strengthen America.

      Here’s how the themes it will play out during the four days:

Monday: Make America Safe Again

  • Core value: Keep me safe

 Tuesday: Make America Work Again

  • Core vale: Save my job

 Wednesday: Make America First Again

  • Core value: Save my country

Thursday: Make America One Again

  • Core value: United we stand

             Trump himself had already been ramping up his social media rhetoric in preparation for the first convention day’s core value of ‘keep me safe.’   He especially used the Baton Rouge police shootings as a Facebook call to action.

                  On Twitter the day before the convention he also tried to weave the threat from ISIS into the narrative.

      But Trump’s marketing team has also been proactive and smart in making sure his social media messaging has tied directly into the core value agenda.  Each day on Facebook the team has posted branded content reflecting the day’s agenda and inviting followers to engage.  Monday’s theme of ‘keep me safe’ brought several posts throughout the day of videos and images for viewers to share.


     On day two, the core value of ‘save my job’ was addressed directly by Trump himself on Facebook.   It’s a smart tactic to keep Trump’s own words in the public dialog of his followers as they await him to address the convention on Thursday night.


     But even the best branding can’t overcome the push of a campaign’s own mistakes and the pull of the news media and social media in off-message directions.  Case in point is the speech of Melania Trump on the opening night of the convention.  The allegations of blatant plagiarism from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention are damaging at best.   The side-by-side split screen compiled by CNN and other news outlets is a communications management nightmare for any organization.


   Even worse, was the campaign’s denial and refusal to address the issue.  If there’s any lesson for communicators in the 21st century it is that you have to work at the speed of news.   The complete 20-hour vacuum of activity on the GOP convention floor and the virtual silence from the Trump campaign is deadly in the world of 24 hour news.   What the campaign organization doesn’t help fill, the news media and social media will fill for them.   And that’s exactly what led to the heated confrontation between CNN anchor Chris Cuomo  and Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort where Cuomo called him a liar.


    It took the Trump campaign two days to finally acknowledge and respond to the crisis.   In a posting on Trump’s website, in-house staff writer Meredith McIver admitted she wrote the speech based on conversations he had with Melania Trump who read her portions of Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples of what she liked and wanted to say.  McIver admitted she did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Letter from Trump in-house writer Meredith McIver

Figure 1 – Letter from Trump in-house writer Meredith McIver

     The incident shows that the best branding and communication efforts also must constantly plan for the contingencies of crisis communication.   In this case, Malania’s speech slipped through the cracks of an otherwise seemingly disciplined RNC communications team and it raises serious questions about the competence of the Trump campaign.

     Effective crisis communications calls for an immediate response, often times an immediate commitment of an organization to cause no more harm, and dare I say it—apologize.   Ms. McIver did.  We know that publicly such a word is rare in Mr. Trump’s vocabulary.  Ignoring the issue while waiting for the next news cycle is not a crisis communications strategy.   Responding sooner would have allowed the campaign to get back on track with the smart branding of his convention.  But it may also leave lingering questions with voters about how he may make decisions as president in more consequential crisis matters.

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How Social Media Reacted to The #Orlando Shootings

12 Jun IMG_4105

IMG_4105     When the world suffers a tragedy we increasingly learn, react and participate all from the palm of our hands.

     It wasn’t more than three generations ago when Americans learned of a different deadly attack on American soil.   That day of “infamy” taught Americans to gather at their radio sets to listen for news. 

     President Roosevelt had a live microphone.  On this day President Obama had Facebook Live.


     The news, the updates, the reaction all comes to our mobile devices—in real time.   And people wasted no time in sharing. 

     Among them was presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump who used the tragedy to double down on banning Muslim immigrants.

     The tragedy has become an equal opportunity political opportunity.  If Trump doubled down on immigration, Hillary Clinton doubled down on gun control.

   If Americans on social media were looking for an appropriate political tone, it came from across the ocean.

     The beauty about this modern means of mass communication is everyone gets a chance to participate. Social media has become our communal campfire when tragedy such as Orlando strikes. Which is partially why we are glued to our phones waiting for the surprise of people we know, follow, or respect to chime into the discussion.

     One such person was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”  On the very day he should have been preoccupied with winning a Tony Award, there he was on my Twitter feed.

     Miranda’s tweet is symbolic of how we’ve come to grieve, honor and demand action from such times of tragedy. We do it visually through memes.   The images say metaphorically more about our emotions than 140 characters ever could.  We saw it recently in the death of Prince and with the shooting massacre in Paris.  In fact, the City of Paris led the way with one of the day’s more powerful posts.

   Brands walk a fine line when trying to acknowledge and participate with their followers in tragedies such as this.  As we saw in Prince’s death, many brands simply got it wrong when they tried to make a statement about themselves.  Many more today got it right, among them, GAP, Esquire, and Hope For Humanity.

Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy in Orlando.

A photo posted by Gap (@gap) on


📷: Alex Wong/Getty

A photo posted by Esquire (@esquire) on


What a horrendous tragedy 🙏🏼 ❤️💛💚💙💜 #lovewins #prayfororlando #peace #love #h4happarel

A photo posted by Hope for Humanity Apparel (@h4h_apparel) on


   We’ve increasing become a society connected by our devices getting ever so closer to the global village that communications scholar Marshal McLuhan once foreshadowed.   The tragedy in Orlando proves how we now we react together and grieve together.  But will it be a strong enough event to make us come together?


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Purple Reigns — How Social Media Honored Prince

22 Apr Prince Graphic

Prince Graphic

                  If you want to know the power of a brand, just watch how other brands try to emulate it.  That’s exactly what’s happened in the tragic passing of music icon Prince.

                 In the moments after the news of his death spread on social media, social media itself became the channel by which brands tried to create their own memes in tribute.  Some in self promotion.  Therein lies extreme risk.

                  With a few exceptions, most brands weren’t just thoroughly thoughtful, they were creatively evocative, and dare I say it—shareable.  After all, that should be one of the top goals.

                 Among the most shared was a simple tweet from Chevrolet.   It’s classic Corvette forever drives one of Prince’s most classic songs.  The six words of copy were as powerful as high-octane fuel.


                  Perhaps no one did it better than a government agency—NASA.  The very folks whose job it is to shoot for the stars paid tribune to one of pop-culture’s brightest stars in a way that only they could do.  Their post on Twitter was metaphorical brilliance.


                The creative minds at advertising agencies are pre-programmed to make the metaphoric connection between values, emotion, and motivation.   The team at Minneapolis’ Carmichael Lynch not only made that emotional connection, they have a physical connection.  Their offices are across the street from the First Avenue night club where Prince filmed “Purple Rain.”   On a rainy day in Minneapolis, their post proved the power of minimalist design to speak volumes.

Farewell dear #prince

A photo posted by Carmichael Lynch (@carmichael_lynch) on


              Simplicity also defined the post from Caribou Coffee.  The homegrown Minnesota company didn’t waste words or images.  The message was unmistakable.

#RestInPurple #MNLove #Prince

A photo posted by Caribou Coffee (@cariboucoffee) on


                In contrast, brands risk scrutiny and backlash when they try to participate in social events by making the conversation—even subtlely—about themselves.   Minnesota brand 3M took that leap.  Its post with a redesigned purple logo and a tear drop in the center was creatively clever, but makes the viewer question what their true motivation was.

A photo posted by 3M (@3m) on


                 The Minnesota Vikings football team went there as well.  In its attempt to jump on the Prince bandwagon, they too made the conversation about themselves.  How much more powerful and meaningful would have their post been if their social media team had simply dropped the Vikings logo?

Purple Rain. #RIPPrince

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on


               In contrast, the Minnesota Twins took a different approach.  The team’s veterans each year try to connect the rookies to the club and the community by making them sing Prince songs.   Their montage of outtakes wasn’t just a tribute to Prince but an invitation to viewers to enjoy the best of Prince and the memories he’s created for them, too.

This is a #MNTwins tradition. Veterans make sure rookies know the words to "Little Red Corvette."

A video posted by Minnesota Twins (@twins) on


               It only takes one summer of living in Minnesota to understand the most powerful cultural institution in the state is the Minnesota State Fair.  It is the single camp fire by which people from every corner of the state gather to celebrate summer, music, food, and each other’s company.  The State Fair’s post reinforced how culture honors culture.

💜 #Prince

A photo posted by Minnesota State Fair (@mnstatefair) on


                  Star Tribune photographer Jeff Wheeler has become a brand in his own right. The images he shoots for Minnesota’s largest newspaper are often filled with metaphorical emotion that ooze from the frame.   His image of Prince’s star at the First Avenue night club needs no caption.

After kissing his fingers, a fan touched Prince's star on the wall of First Ave. Thursday afternoon. @startribune #ripprince

A photo posted by Jeff Wheeler (@jeffersonwheeler) on


                Finally, MTV proves how sometimes it’s best to simply make the message about the subject.  In this case, Prince’s own words.

You will be missed, @prince 💜 We're honoring him today on MTV and Facebook Live right now.

A photo posted by MTV (@mtv) on


                 The power of social media is how it can stimulate conversation, emotion, and reflection.  The artist we knew as Prince certainly accomplished that with his music.  The fact that millions of fans world wide shared their grief and reflections speaks volumes not just of Prince’s own brand but how he became a part, ever so small, in the story of our own lives.

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Marco Rubio’s Words That Don’t Work

14 Mar Trump Rubio Header Pix

Trump Rubio Header Pix                        

     The gloves have come off. Except this isn’t a fistfight, it’s more like a middle school food fight. Welcome to the 2016 GOP presidential race.

     It’s an election cycle where virtually every known rule about political campaigns has been run through the shredder—several times. But the sudden shift by Senator Marco Rubio to complete with Donald Trump in his own sandbox defies established strategic positioning and communication logic.

    The shift in Senator Rubio’s tactics that began with the debates on February 25th, saw him sharply attack Donald Trump by trading personal insults before a CNN audience of millions. The attacks have continued on the campaign trail with the Rubio campaign even posting videos on its YouTube feed.  

     What’s puzzling is why Senator Rubio would go there. Yes, he is trailing in both the polls and delegate count to both Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. And yes, he has to do something to spark his campaign and differentiate himself. But competing with Trump in the rhetoric of personal assaults only lowers himself to Trump’s level in an arena where he can’t win. It simply defies strategic thinking.

     Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter argues that effective strategy is not competing in the same race, but running a different race.

     “Competitive strategy is about being different,” says Porter. “It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” 

Trump Rubio Perceptual Map

Figure 1

      What applies to business strategy, also applies to strategic communication. For the moment, Sen. Rubio has a strategic communication problem that is in part creating his electoral problem. The perceptual map below shows how the remaining four republican candidates are positioned on axis of personal attacks verses conservative values and voter empathy. (Figure 1) By occupying with Trump a similar position on the perceptual branding map, Rubio cannot differentiate himself.   He somehow has to figure out how to re-position himself in the sweet spot in the mind of the voters—that is, outside of the blue curve on the map. 

Effective strategy is more than positioning.  Porter argues that it is also equal parts operational efficiencies and competencies.  For example, Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 not just because of where he positioned himself in the mind of the voter, but also because his campaign had a core competency in social media engagement.  In 2012, the Obama campaign won again in part with its strategic superiority in using big data to mine the voter rolls.

     Time is clearly running out for Sen. Rubio and it may be already too late to for strategic changes to have any immediate impact.  If anyone is running a different race, it’s clearly Trump. Where the race is going, we don’t yet know.  Buckle up.

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