Monday, 17 August 2009

Consumers stronger than ever, Cadbury backdown shows

PROOF that consumers do posses the power to change the world.

Never, ever, doubt this for even a second.


Bill Cosby

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 5:37p.m.

By Jane Luscombe

Cadbury is not the first company to bow to people power – there have been plenty of other clangers over the years.

Weeks of angry consumer backlash have forced the chocolate giant to drop its unfortunate experiment with palm oil and go back to the old cocoa butter recipe.

It is easy to mock adverts from the 1970s but, even at the time, people ridiculed the Austin Allegro - not least because of the square steering wheel, or "quartic", if we are going to get technical.

It was meant to give extra room for the driver's legs, but style eventually won over comfort and it was ditched from the later models.

It was taste that triumphed when Coca Cola briefly changed its tried-and-tested fizz formula.

In an advert for "New Coke", Bill Cosby said: The incredible has happened. The impossible has become a reality. Coke actually tastes better than ever before."

But not for most people, no matter what Cosby thought. After a public backlash the company canned so called "New Coke".

And it's not just about what is in the product. Monteith's was left with a sour taste when it tried to move its southern beer production from Greymouth to Auckland. Drinkers around the country revolted.

Consumer magazine's Sue Chetwin says never underestimate people power.

"If enough consumers get together they can have quite a big impact," she says.

Coca Cola got a second reminder, this time with water. "Dasani", marketed "as pure as bottled water gets", turned out to have chemical impurities. It evaporated from the UK just five weeks after its launch.

Contact Energy learned the hard way too. It was deserted by 40,000 customers after it tried to double its directors fees.

"The lesson has been clearly understood in relation to that," said David Baldwin, Contact Energy CEO. "We could have taken a different course of action and probably should have."

The advice for businesses is meddle at your peril. Thanks to the internet and websites like Facebook and Twitter, the consumer now has more power than ever to make or break a brand.