The recent case of Kashi cereal being blasted on social media for not being organic even though it claims a position of “natural” brings up some interesting issues concerning marketing and brand.
One is a trap marketers have fallen into, riding the organic wave and equating that with natural. It’s not the same thing, but consumers have been hit over the head so much because of it they believe they are. Most, I’d gander, don’t even know the benefits (and drawbacks) of organic foods and, in the true sense of the word, natural could just mean the ingredients are natural, not man-made. (That’s Kashi’s point.)
Kashi just happens to be a casualty (of sorts) in the food industry’s rush to attach itself with organic. That’s the problem with aligning yourself with a trend. The trend can either go out of fashion (as they all do) or it can be examined within an inch of its life so everyone gets painted with the same “distrust” brush.
That’s the other point. Social media has changed things. Years ago, the story in USA Today wouldn’t have prompted such outrage. Now, consumers are posting Facebook with a back and forth that’s been downright mean and often without thought (from both sides). That helps nobody.
In considering it all, the one thing that’s missing here is a meaningful brand that’s based on emotion, not product benefits. That’s really where products and companies get into trouble. Once they align themselves with a category benefit, they are suspect to the highs and lows of that benefit.
However, if you have an emotional brand position that’s coveted in the market, any failings on the part of product benefits are waved away because they are not the reasons why consumers purchased it in the first place.
I talk a lot about Apple, but it represents the perfect example. When the iPhone 4 came out, there were concerns about dropped calls because your hand might cover a tiny, open space between the metals on the side that would cut the call off. Seems like a game-changer, doesn’t it?
Apple did respond, basically giving away cases that would prevent the problem, but the issue did nothing to its sales. In fact, the iPhone 4 went on to break sales records during the “crisis.” It was its brand that saved it.
Kashi and its maker, Kellogg, just got caught in a trap of its own making. If it had positioned itself emotionally, rather than through product benefits, the outrage would not be so loud.