So you take years, decades, centuries perhaps to build the brand, win the loyalty of customers, fine-tune the marketing and promotion, establish your distribution channels, and constantly perfect your business model.
Then consumer [product] tastes change. Behaviorial expectations (on the part of consumers toward corporations) change. Best-known brand products come under more attack than generic or unknown brands (the price of market leadership?). The demand for greater ACCOUNTABILITY becomes more widespread among stakeholders. Maybe like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” explanation — something triggers the crisis.
And now we have three old-line, global brand manufacturers in the advocates’ crosshairs. Coca-Cola has its issues worldwide and they seem to be growing, both in scope and intensity. Mattel has a real dilemma — where do they source now for completed products or key components (of Barbie, for example) now that consumer confidence is dropping like a stone. What can they do before the Christmas toy binge? And good old Kellogg’s — rapidly growing consumer, media and public sector interest in (and concerns about) the obesity issue and over-sugared hyper-active kids issue put the company and its sugar-cereal products in focus. (Irony: The Company’s legacy is its establishment as a nutrition- and health-based food manufacturer by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.)
While this is an Australia-based story today there have been various expressions of the same concerns about Coca Cola, Mattel and Kellog’s in the North American, European and developing markets. These companies may find more media devoting space to the stories about them and their products in the days ahead. And being public companies, we can expect some variations on the themes in this story will be incorporated in 2008 proxy contests.
There are rising expectations that corporations marketing consumer products — and especially children’s products (all three here) — will be more accountable to end users for their actions, marketing and product stewardship. Watch for company reactions to these allegations.
Here’s Kellogg’s Australian page: http://www.kelloggs.com.au/DisplayPage.asp?PageID=323§ionid=1
Here’s Coca Cola Company page: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/
And Mattel Toys: http://www.mattel.com/index.asp?f=true
All have news about their “corporate responsibility,” aspects of corporate accountability (including Mattel voluntary recall, for example) and are worth tracking to get all sides of the story.
Editor – AC