Cheerios was recently highlighted in the press for a social media campaign that went seemingly haywire. Cheerios asked fans to upload photos about what Cheerios means to them. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) labeling protestors overtook the campaign and used it to protest General Mills participation with the defeat of Prop 37, a California law that would require food companies and retailers to label products made with GMOs.
But is this really a case of a social media campaign gone bad? The real story isn’t about the social media campaign but rather about brand transparency. Consumers want to know more about the products they buy and have never had more power to get at the truth. We live in an age of increasing transparency and consumer empowerment. I am afraid that too many of us are not recognizing this paradigm shift and simply write episodes like this off as a marketing mistake. My hope is that leadership teams (not just Marketing) across the world are now discussing how to be more transparent, how to empower their consumers and not looking for ways to quell social media.
It’s time we all recognize it’s better to be transparent, even if that means showing your blemishes, than to maintain a shroud of secrecy of perceived perfection. Today’s consumer will respect you for that even if they disagree with you.