The cereal maker’s Australian consumer site shows it’s ready to embrace the concept of authenticity.
Everything’s about authenticity these days, right? It’s not enough to be merely honest or speak simply and directly. Brands must be real. They need to show the world what makes them tick. They have to show us what they are made of.
Fair enough, too. Authenticity is important. It also sells, certainly as a marketing concept. It’s why large and small businesses like content marketing – they want to humanise their brand. It gives them the chance to show us what happens behind the scenes or how things are made. It allows us to meet the smart people who make bold decisions and the creatives who fizz with inspiration. Like us, love our product.
Of course, part of brand authenticity is about being upfront about the things that concern consumers. It’s why FAQs can be the best-read pages on company websites. It’s also why some brands use their website (or an associated site) to directly address credibility issues with their products or services. Trust us, trust our product.
This was why McDonald’s Australia created the “Our Food, Your Questions” site in 2013. Although it wouldn’t admit it, the company was still mopping up the fallout from Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 gastro-disaster documentary Super Size Me and wanted to give consumers a forum to ask questions about its products. It was all in the pursuit of transparency, engagement … and authenticity.
The Australian site has hundreds of questions about pig fat, shrinking burger sizes and what’s really in McNuggets (which leads to a broken weblink). It also has one from “Piers F. from Brisbane” which reads: “ok, so I asked a question before and you guys did not give me the full truth so how can we trust any of your answers when you are clearly delunding the truth”. McDonald’s answer is: “Hi Piers, we’ve gone to great lengths to validate all the responses we give on here and it certainly doesn’t make sense for us to lie. We’ve launched Our Food, Your Questions to allow Aussies to start an honest conversation with us and get the facts they need to make up their own mind about Macca’s…”
Authenticity certainly isn’t painless, but it is essential.
Breakfast company Kellogg’s Australia understands this. Like McDonald’s, it recently launched a website, Open for Breakfast, that purports to answer any questions consumers may have about its cereals and snack bars. The site includes selective (broadly favourable) links to news stories, shareable infographics of facts and pictures of smiling kids eating breakfast, sugary mission statements and a guide to where Kellogg’s sources its grains in Australia.
It also features an engaging series of videos starring former Masterchef contestant Justine Schofield that asks the hard questions, such as “What makes a balanced breakfast?” and “How do Rice Bubbles get their amazing snap, crackle and pop?” (Spoiler alert: it’s not magical.)
Along the way, Kellogg’s invites us to “meet the team” of product managers, factory supervisors and nutritionists, and see what the company is doing in the community and for the environment. We learn, for instance, that Kellogg’s Australia has donated more than 17 million serves of cereal and snacks to Aussies in need through its “Better Days” initiative.
But are these Aussies better off for the experience for consuming the company’s product? That’s what the main part of the website seeks to answer.
“I heard a Kellogg’s representative commenting on how they have to add extra sugars/salts even to the most basic of cereals or no one would buy it,” says Wendy from Rosedale in Queensland. “Is this true?”
The answer, of course, is yes … with a fair bit of sugar on top: “Hi Wendy, we work hard to make sure that our cereals are both tasty and nutritious. The little bit of sugar and salt that we do use plays a pretty important role – it helps to give the cereal a nice crunchy texture, it also helps with food preservation so that our cereals have a longer shelf life and of course, it makes the grains taste a little nicer as by themselves they can be a bit bitter, which isn’t a great way to start your day.”
Of course, tone is everything when it comes to truth-telling. Like a good cereal, it needs to be not too heavy and not too light. What about humour? Well, the respondents at Kellogg’s Open for Breakfast stir that ingredient into the content stream very carefully. After all, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if an inquisitor is being serious or not …
Q: I’ve heard the packaging is more nutritious than cornflakes. Could you tell me the nutritional value of the box? – Sharyn, Pretty Beach, NSW.
A: Aha – that old chestnut! This myth has been floating around for years, but there’s really no truth in it at all! Almost all our cereal boxes are made from 95 percent recycled cartonboard . . .
The site also deals with a query about Kellogg’s moral stance on marketing to children, though some may have further questions about whether it is merely engaging in spin. “Our current stance on marketing to children is pretty clear – none of our products are directly marketed to children under the age of 14. All of our advertising across TV, print or online or our marketing promotions are aimed at Mums and Dads – as the main decisionmaker of what goes on the kitchen table in their households.”
Pester power is not a factor, apparently. Parents may ask if, in this case, Kellogg’s is being truly authentic.
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