At the end of the day, we’re all human

by Holland-Mark | September 6, 2013

We may be biased, but we adhere to the philosophy that there’s never been a more exciting time to be in marketing. Brands are being held accountable to new standards. The days when ad agencies and marketers could sit in a room, drink whiskey à la Mad Men, and decide exactly how people would view their brand are remnants of the past. Brands today need to be transparent, authentic, and connect with consumers’ values. It’s a tall order indeed. But it also means that there are more opportunities to connect with customers than ever before.

Chobani, now the #1 selling yogurt brand in the country, has emerged as a great example of a small no-name company who built a brand based on non-traditional marketing methods. And in the past couple days, the story about a batch of contaminated yogurts has caused a social media firestorm.

From the beginning, Chobani didn’t have much money to spend on marketing campaigns, so they relied on non-traditional marketing methods, particularly social media, to build the brand. As a distributor, they had very little contact with consumers. So they turned to Facebook and Twitter to connect directly with their fans. And they’ve done a fantastic job branding their product as more than just yogurt. Their social media channels are home to more than promotions—they respond to customer comments, ask for feedback, launch new products, and post recipes, photos, and inspiring quotes.

Which is why, despite the less than savory yogurt that’s getting pulled off the shelves, I’m rooting for them. Instead of withdrawing from the backlash, Chobani is reaching out to their fans. I was surprised to see a Facebook post this afternoon with a headline that reads “Mucor circinelloides” and describes the kind of bacteria that caused the contamination. It’s often said that you see someone’s true character when they’re faced with hardship. And we’d say that it’s the same for brands. The next week will be telling, but our fingers are crossed that the brand will continue down this path. It’s human to err, and the only way to forgiveness is to be human.