Demonstrating Authentic Caring: How Two Brands Missed the Boat and Nestle Got It Right


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To be successful, brands need to listen to the voice of their customers and then act on those learnings! Our VoC research has shown that consumers want authenticity and genuine connections with brands. They don’t want to be sold. They want sincere relationships. But the burden is on marketers to step up and deliver.

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?… These are all questions that marketers must be able to answer if they want to drive the right business outcomes.”

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 just “stunts” with no substance behind them to drive actual consumer involvement or connections.

When Johnny Walker launched the Jane Walker Edition they missed (entirely) 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 failed to actually demonstrate how they themselves as a large corporate employer drives women’s careers.

On the flip side, 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.”

So, the TakeAways that 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 presentedor 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 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.

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 by 30%.

The TakeAway all brands can learn from, 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.


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.

Ernan Roman
Ernan Roman (@ernanroman) is president of ERDM Corp. and author of Voice of the Customer Marketing. He was inducted into the DMA Marketing Hall of Fame due to the results his VoC research-based CX strategies achieve for clients such as IBM, Microsoft, QVC, Gilt and HP. ERDM conducts deep qualitative research to help companies understand how customers articulate their feelings and expectations for high value CX and personalization. Named one of the Top 40 Digital Luminaries and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing.


  1. Any thoughts on Nestlé’s decision to pull advertising from the Laura Ingraham show? Was that a good PR move?

  2. Hi Adri,
    Rather than singling out a single advertiser, this action should be viewed as a statement by over a dozen corporations. As a united front, over a dozen major corporations have made the decision to withdraw from paid advertising of a TV program. At any time it is the prerogative of a paid advertiser to pull their ads.


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