Food and Beverage

When Brands Miss the Mark

A Reflection on Consumer Disconnect

Bob Froese

When Brands Miss the Mark: A Reflection on Consumer Disconnect

We’ve witnessed some startling examples of brands seemingly losing touch with consumer realities, particularly around the sensitive topic of food costs. Two incidents that starkly highlight this disconnect come from Wendy's and Kellogg, where corporate messages have clashed dramatically with public sentiment.

Wendy's faced an online stir after comments suggesting the implementation of surge pricing, a concept that, while retracted, left consumers questioning the brand's sensitivity to the current economic pressures faced by many. Then, Kellogg's CEO suggested that financially strained families might consider serving cereal for dinner as a cost-saving measure. This advice, intended to position cereal as an affordable meal option, instead came off as tone-deaf to the struggles of consumers grappling with a 26% increase in grocery bills since 2020.

These examples beg the question:Are brands becoming too detached from the realities of their consumers, focusing more on profitability and earnings calls than on the values and needs at the core of their customer base? It appears that in the rush to address bottom lines, some brands forget the foundational principle of marketing:understanding and empathizing with the consumer.

Moreover, the decreasing influence of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) in the C-suite may be contributing to this gap. Traditionally, CMOs have played a crucial role in ensuring that consumer voices and experiences shape brand strategies and communications.However, as their influence wanes, we might be seeing the consequences of a disconnect between brand actions and consumer expectations.

So, what can brands learn from these missteps? Here are a few takeaways:

  • Stay Grounded in ConsumerRealities: Brands need to maintain a deep, empathetic understanding of their consumers' lives, struggles, and needs. This understanding should be the foundation of all marketing strategies and messages.
  • Balance Profit with Empathy: While profitability is essential for any business, brands must balance their financial objectives with genuine empathy for their consumers. This balance is crucial for long-term brand loyalty and trust.
  • Reinforce the Role of CMOs: Companies should reinforce the role of the CMO or equivalent marketing leaders, ensuring they have a strong voice in strategic decisions and that this voice advocates for the consumer.
  • Listen and Adapt: Brands must be agile, willing to listen to consumer feedback, and ready to adapt theirstrategies and messages accordingly. This agility can help prevent disconnects and missteps.
  • Communicate with Authenticity: In all communications, brands should strive for authenticity. Consumers can detect insincerity and disconnection, which can lead to backlash and eroded trust.

While brands like Wendy's andKellogg will recover from these incidents, they serve as potent reminders ofthe importance of staying connected with consumer realities. As marketers, wemust advocate for strategies that not only drive profitability but alsoresonate deeply with the values, needs, and realities of our consumers. Let'stake these lessons to heart and strive for a marketing approach that is as humane as it is strategic.

Back to ALL Posts