Kellogg’s: Building Brand Trust Is Like Buying Insurance

September 9, 2016

Holly Pavlika

SVP, Marketing & Content at Collective Bias
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For today’s Kellogg’s it’s all about transparency in storytelling. How often have you asked, “What’s in my food?” I know as a child I spent hours reading the cereal box as I ate my morning breakfast. Potassium, iron and all those ingredients were meaningless to me as a child but as a mom for today’s average consumer they take on all new meaning. As the Chief Health Officer those standard lists don’t tell the full story and she wants the full explanation behind those ingredients. Here’s a fun fact: one third of Kellogg’s traffic comes from the cereal box!

Enter Kellogg’s “Open for Breakfast”

I had the pleasure of attending a session led by Rick Wion, Senior Director of Consumer Engagement at Kellogg’s, at this year’s Content Marketing World. He is the father of three kids who think he’s the coolest dad because he works for the company their cereal comes from. I’m sure he gets peppered with questions from his kids with questions similar to those questions Kellogg’s receives everyday. Those many questions became the idea behind “Open for Breakfast”, a website Kellogg’s developed to field questions from their consumers around nutrition, sustainability, and philanthropy. Every week they get hundreds of queries.

These questions are all part of Kellogg’s content strategy for building trust through transparency. They grab a handful of them and answer/publish them as content in the form of videos, expert interviews, infographics and fast facts. “How does Kellogg’s help farmers?” “What’s in Rice Krispies?”  

Why is Kellogg’s doing this? “Trust in institutions is at an all time low so transparency is important for institutions and brands,” said Wion. “And Consumers expect more information. Consumers are demanding more value. They want to know how we are helping the environment or choosing brands that help children and farmers.”

Building Trust is Like Buying Insurance

Wion believes, as we all should, that building trust with your customer is paramount and the foundation for any brand’s future if anything negative occurs. No consumer expects a brand to be perfect and if you’ve built trust they will believe you will right the ship should anything happen. That said, consumers are looking for consistency so brands need to stay at the top of their game.

Wion stated, “Transparency builds trust. Transparency impacts purchase intent.  And when you build trust through understanding you not only help your brand or product, it improves employee relations. It’s important to build a network within your organization because it is the foundation for transparent story creation. Customers need to see those stories and messages everywhere. It can’t just be a 30 second spot.”

Screen Shot from Kellogg’s Open for Breakfast

Along the way, having worked at McDonalds and now at Kellogg’s, Mr. Wion has learned some valuable lessons, which he happily shared.

The bad:

  1. Don’t serve up the hater’s buffet.
    Share the right info but don’t make it easy for the haters. Make sure your stories are served up to the right people on the right platforms.
  1. Beware of pseudo scientists and related experts.
    Be cognizant of the self proclaimed scientists and experts and what they are saying.
  1. You can’t fade away.
    You can’t start being transparent and then stop. It’s the investment in your future.
  1. It isn’t cheap.
    It used to be all it took was great content and social media. But with changes in algorithms you now need a media plan. “You need juice in your media,” said Wion. “You need to know who is the audience and how do I get to the right people with the right stories.”
  1. Your content must be original.
    The tone for storytelling is different than advertising. You need to balance low production with high quality content. You need to look to create complementary content rather than recycled content.
Transparency in brand storytelling builds customer loyalty. via @rdublife #CMWorld Click To Tweet

The Ugly:

  1. You Need a Legal Buddy.
    Partner with legal early on.
  1. Tracking internal expertise is a job itself.
    It took Kellogg’s 37 interviews internally to identify the right people at Kellogg’s to use in their stories.
  1. Measurement
    How did it sell more happiness? How did it sell more cereal? We look at determining what metrics drive consumers towards brand preference or purchase intent.
  1. Not every story is an A+
    Are Chicken McNuggets really made with pink slime? They had to address the skin inside of a nugget, but tread very carefully on how they answered this question.

The Good:

  1. Kellogg’s Open For Breakfast is consumer led.
    They use a content calendar and change it every 6 weeks based on the questions from consumers.
  1. Showcase your internal experts and what they are doing.
    There are amazing individuals at any organization. Be sure to showcase them.
  1. Reveal untold stories.
    Kellogg’s uses quite a bit of quinoa in their cereal but with that production increase came issues. They spoke to their farmers and it came down to manpower. If the farmers took their children out of school they could produce more. So Kellogg’s came up with a solution to help the farmers with lights so kids could study at night and help out during the day.
  1. Transparency builds employee pride.
    It takes a village to build great stories and every department needs to be aware and participate but once done it’s a fabulous way to share employee pride.
  1. It’s a platform for myth busting.
    Every company faces their share of myths. Transparency through storytelling is a great way to demystify and share facts.

You can follow Rick on Twitter @rdublife and be sure to check out

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Holly Pavlika

SVP, Marketing & Content at Collective Bias

Holly oversees marketing and PR. Holly, also a blogger, founded MOMentumNation while serving as the Executive Creative Director and Managing Director at Big Fuel, a pure play social media agency. She is an award-winning creative marketing industry veteran who was recognized in 2012 by Klout as the “most influential agency person” and uses her voice for social good with 10X10 Educate Girls, Every Mother Counts, Global Poverty Project and the UN Foundation Shot@Life campaign.