Genuine connections: How two brands missed the boat and Nestle got it right

Ernan Roman

Ernan Roman examines three recent cases illustrating the power of genuine authentic connections with customers.

To achieve success, brands need to listen to the voice of their customers and tact on those learnings! Our VoC research has shown that consumers want authenticity and genuine connections with brands. They don’t want to be sold to. They want sincere relationships.

But the burden is on marketers to step-up. 

According to Lou Jordano, CMO, Crimson Hexagon: 

“It’s more important than ever for marketers to deeply understand their target audience…. The job of any marketer is to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience, and to create content and campaigns that speak directly to them… What do my customers want? What’s important to them?What drives their decision making? These are all questions that marketers must be able to answer if they want to drive the right business outcomes.”

See Also: Market report: Capturing feedback for a 360° customer view

How NOT to Understand Your Audience

This past Women’s Day, a lot of “stunts” were in play trying to jump on women’s movements prevalent in the news. But many turned out to be “stunts” that lacked the substance to drive actual consumer involvement or connections.

When Johnny Walker launched the Jane Walker Edition they missed the point of International Women’s Day. While Diageo (parent company) will donate $1 of every bottle of Jane Walker sold in March to “organizations championing women’s causes,” the company didn’t manage to demonstrate how they themselves as a large corporate employer drives women’s careers.

McDonalds flipped their logo for National Women’s Day, and got a lot of backlash for what was also perceived as a “stunt.” However, McDonald’s spokesperson Lauren Altmin, noted that “[the company has a long history of supporting women in the workplace.” And according to Wendy Lewis, McDonald’s Chief Diversity Officer, “From restaurant crew and management to our C-suite of senior leadership, women play invaluable roles at all levels and together with our independent franchise owners we’re committed to their success.”

The lessons marketers must learn from both of these campaigns is that time must be taken to understand the target audience. Then there must be an honest and relevant brand connection presented or consumers will perceive the effort as meaningless.

• McDonalds would have been better served publicizing and demonstrating their programs that connect with the target demographic and telling women how to participate.

• Jane Walker was only an ad campaign and as a result consumers perceive it as such. While the company did donate funds to women’s organizations, they themselves didn’t authentically demonstrate involvement with the intended audience.

See Also: 5 Steps to improve customer service by making it personal

Listen & Understand

There is a valuable lesson to be learned regarding the Nestle launch of its ready to drink coffee in China. The company originally just took their US marketing model and brought it to China. The problem was that Chinese consumers were not US consumers, and the launch failed.

The brand then took the time to understand and learn about the Chinese consumer and rebranded and relaunched a much more successful effort which included lowering their original pricing.

Case in point being, especially when launching an existing product in a new market: understand the voice of the customer before any attempts to sell! It took Nestle being stateside within China for them to truly understand the Chinese consumer. Their previous assumptions threw them way off track and they failed to appeal to the target audience.

Podcast episode: Life as a Chief Executive Officer and Customer Experience Officer


An international survey by Cohn & Wolfe found that 87% of global consumers felt that it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times,” ranking authenticity above innovation (72%) and product uniqueness (71%) when asked what they valued most in a brand.

Additionally, Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom UK noted “The reason authenticity is so important today is because people will simply no longer buy from inauthentic brands.”

Brands need to understand that consumer connections don’t mean jumping on the nearest boat of opportunity. Meaningful consumer connections begin with authentic demonstrations of customer caring and understanding.