We’re loyal to brands we buy because we buy into what they stand for. We want our brands to be aboveboard in their products and marketing – and please don’t put a munch of mumbo-jumbo in the small type, no one has the time or inclination to read that stuff.

We go about our shopping, reaching for the same brands day-in and day-out, trusting our selections. We don’t have any reason not to. Until we do.

One example of consumers doing an about-face is Kellogg’s Kashi brand of cereals, brought back into the light by the company’s announcement that they are reversing strategy – more on that in a moment. When the cereal maker’s claims of “all natural” were questioned a few years ago, social media lit up with incredulous user generated comments. Kashi’s customers never imagined that the cereal they were buying was anything but wholesome, which they had come to expect meant the highest current standards for foods labeling themselves as “all natural.”

Two years after the social media rancor engulfed the brand, Kashi dropped “all natural” from its label. For a hilarious take on the skepticism associated with food labeling, check out this commercial from Applegate Farms.

Kellogg’s announcement that they are creating a new division for Kashi and other acquired brands to provide autonomy from Kellogg’s branded products is a retreat for the venerable company. To support the move the company is asking its agencies for assistance (Mercury360 has no affiliation with the brand) with marketing noting that while Kashi has “historically been a leader in the natural foods industry, the brand has lost traction in recent years with its core consumers.” Kellogg’s attributes the decline to a “stale innovation model, a lack of purposeful brand positioning and a communications model that hasn’t evolved to keep up with the changing use and consumption of media.”     

Is the damage done or can Kellogg’s reverse the slide for the brand that already spends millions of dollars in advertising? The landscape has changed dramatically since 2000 when Kellogg’s bought Kashi. Back then few people outside of the bulk bin shoppers were talking about non-GMO or even organic. In that shopping milieu Kashi was a breath of fresh air challenging entrenched brands like, well, Kellogg’s.

Fast-forward to today where food labeling is a key brand differentiator and growing for Kashi is now dependent on the brand being willing to earn trust through authenticity in its product, labeling and marketing. That’s going to take a patient, grassroots social media approach to counteract what consumers will readily find and read online about the brand’s past practices.

[Image source: Brandchannel.com]