Why Kellogg’s is Right & Cenk Uygur is Wrong

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Business, Marketing, Observations | Tags: , , , |

Marketing Profs sent out their Marketing Inspirations today with a message from Liberal talk show host and blogger for Huffington Post Cenk Uygur.  In that article he argues that Kellogg’s decision to drop Michael Phelps as a brand spokesperson is a major marketing error.

I have some major issues with this article, Cenk Uygur is a political commentator not a marketing or brand expert, so I am not sure what his qualifications are to talk about branding decisions are. His position is that Kellogg is going to alienate a large portion of its customers and potential customers by deciding to drop Michael Phelps.  He bases this on his claim that 42% of the US population has smoked marijuana. He further claims that even those who have never smoked it see nothing wrong with it.

He of course doesn’t supply a source for these claims, he also fails to point out the difference between those people who may have admitted that at some point they once tried marijuana and those who are currently regular users of the drug. Because Omega & Speedo have decided not to drop Phelps, apparently that is enough reason that Kellogg should. Here are my questions. Do Speedo and Omega perform drug tests on their prospective employees, in their contracts do they have a clause that allows the company to have unannounced random drug tests? Many large employers do, my own company – which is still less than 10 people conducts drug and criminal checks before hiring. So if those companies do the same what message does it send to their employees? Oh we will test you but Michael Phelps is different because he is famous.

I have heard the defence that he “made a mistake” – how do you accidentally smoke marijuana? The mistake he made was getting caught. Cenk Uygur is trying to promote a political agenda and proposes that brands, by taking a stand on a particular issue will alienate potential customers. Did I miss something or did he just become a raging capitalist – profits at any cost?

Will 42% of the buying public in America suddenly decide that they are not going to eat Kellogg products because they dropped Mr Phelps for smoking dope? Will they suddenly see Kellogg as not being “cool”? Uygur is quoted as saying “You are no longer protecting your brand when you are prudish and overly careful,” he says. “You just seem out of touch.”  Out of touch with what precisely? Parents who are buying cereal or the kids who eat them? Is the premise that kids see a role model smoke dope and endorse cereal therefore the cereal is cool, or that adults who smoke dope will get the munchies for Kellogg cereals because of their fellow marijuana user?

Either way, I think it is Uygur who is out of touch. Stick with the political commentary and leaving brand advice to those who know better.

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