Kellogg’s Learns the Dangers of Conditional Charity

Kellogg’s UK is the latest brand to learn a fairly basic lesson in social media marketing: charity should never be conditional.

We get why this tweet seemed like a good idea at the time: it’s tough to get people to engage with you on social even when they follow your feed, and nobody wants to say “no” to feeding a vulnerable child. But the equation seriously undermines the message here.

The brand thinks: “We’re sponsoring a charity program to provide breakfasts for underprivileged children, and we want our fans to share the announcement so more people will associate it with our brand.”

The audience reads: “If you don’t retweet this, a vulnerable child might not eat breakfast tomorrow. Only a terrible, terrible person would allow that to happen. You’re not a terrible person, are you?”

Generous interpretation for sure—but this is how social works, remember? Here’s a clearer version of the statement:

But that one is bland and un-engaging, so we can see why they didn’t use it. There’s a thin and dangerous line between sharing something that fans will want to share themselves and nudging them with a message that ties a brand’s generosity to the audience’s own behavior.

We should note that Kellogg’s did well on the damage control front when compared to other brands that found themselves in the same predicament. Unlike Home Depot, the company didn’t pull the “it was our agency’s fault” defense. That one might work for the public at large, but if we ran an agency we’d be less likely to consider Home Depot as a client after that story.

See, there you go. It’s not so hard.