What Happened To Kashi Could Happen To Your Brand

…if it stands for something you can’t stand behind.

The image appearing on social feeds across the globe is one that is still hard to erase.

The shock is still palpable to masses of Kashi cereal lovers, including myself, who woke up over the past few months to the fact that the all “natural” breakfast food they loved and trusted was found by the USDA to contain genetically modified soy, and that certain grains contained pesticides that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.

Undoubtedly consumers everywhere need to wake up to how our food is grown and processed and to take responsibility for what we put on our family’s tables. That’s a matter for another article.

But, from a marketing perspective, why was there such a massive consumer backlash on social media?

Kelloggs – the corporate parent of Kashi – maintained it did nothing wrong. Finally, on Facebook, they blamed food supply and then the USDA for not regulating the term “natural.”

Kashi clearly missed the point. They did not understand and value the true connection they had enjoyed with consumers all this time.

Consumers felt betrayed because they believed Kashi shared their values. The products were being marketed as “natural” at a premium price point ($5-$8.00) through reputable health food and organic retailers. Health professionals touted the benefits of switching to Kashi cereals to their patients. Friends told their friends, and so on. Kashi was a company you could trust to help you live a healthier life.

Instead of understanding the power of this connection with their followers, Kashi remained silent for days. When they did speak, Kashi went on the defensive and denied wrongdoing instead of taking responsibility in a head-on approach crisis as a “partner in nutrition.”

Kashi missed a priceless opportunity to share the values – even in a time of crisis- with the one group of people with whom they had an opportunity to build consensus; people who are relatively aware of and are concerned about the presence of unhealthy ingredients in the food chain; people who were already putting money where their mouths are.

What can be learned: It is so important to take stock in what makes your brand tick. Are you fortunate enough to share certain beliefs with those who use your product? Do you fully appreciate how your consumers view your brand? Does your brand live up to its actual or perceived brand promise? Have you reviewed every aspect of your operation to ensure all the elements are in alignment and you can stand behind what you stand for? And are you prepared with a proper social media crisis plan when the unthinkable happens?

If you answered “no” to any of the afore mentioned questions, you had better get ready or risk getting “Kashi-ed!”

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