As you may have read in yesterday’s post, I wrote a nice note to the CEO of Kellogg’s about his inane decision to pull all advertising from Breitbart simply because they appear to have offended his liberal sensibilities. To my surprise, he answered me, albeit with a weak weasely message. His reply and my reply to his reply are copied below, along with my original e-mail. As you’d expect, the order is from the bottom up.
First, many thanks for the quick reply. I wasn’t sure I’d get one. My first reaction to your response was that it was really weak. Of course, it’s a political maneuver. Unless, you also planned to pull ads from, say, CNN, who behaved in a demonstrably unethical way (e.g., giving debate questions to one candidate and not the other), then you’re not only politicizing cereal, you’re doing it in a partisan manner. That is, unless you’re saying that the “value” of honesty is not one of the core values held by Kellogg’s.
Then, I asked myself what it would look like to give you the benefit of the doubt. That is, what if you really believed you didn’t do it for political reasons. Unfortunately, the conclusion doesn’t change much. Even if it was unintentionally political, every single person I spoke to about it or who read and commented on my blog about it, agreed that it was political. Thus, if you didn’t intend it to be, then you have a serious perception problem.
What’s more vexing to me as a business person, is why you would deliberately alienate something like 50% of the population (and probably an awful lot of cereal and Pop-Tart lovers in there) to either make a political statement or risk an unintentional one? I get that Breitbart has some fairly strong views, but the recent election showed that those views are shared by a plurality, if not a majority, of Americans. When you presented your 2017 budget and strategy to your board at the Q4 meeting (or when you present it if that meeting hasn’t take place), did you say, “we’ve made a strategic decision that we don’t want to sell sugary cereal to Republicans this year? Thus, we’re projecting a base case revenue decline of 47%?” I’m sure some people will be too addicted to Sugar Pops to give them up so maybe 47% is overly pessimistic, but based on my non-statistical sampling of my blog and FB followers, you’re facing a real decline. I’d be interested in why you’d do that and how you’ll defend a potential shareholder lawsuit that might result (not from me, to be clear, I’m not a shareholder) from such reckless management.
Anyway, thanks again for the dialogue. Certainly interested in your thoughts on my analysis of this. I’m off to have some Lucky Charms!
On Nov 30, 2016, at 9:04 PM, Bryant, John <John.Bryant@kellogg.com> wrote:
> Dear Bruce,
> I can assure you that our decision had nothing to do with politics.
Regards > > John
> >> On Nov 30, 2016, at 4:04 PM, Bruce Robertson wrote: >>
>> Hi John,
> >> I read about your decision to end your relationship with Breitbart so I wanted to share with you the end of another very long relationship – mine with Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats. First, who am I? For as long as I can remember, at least 30 years, I have had a bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats before bed. In my house, we call it “Basketball Cereal.”
> >> Funny story – when my son, who’s now 23, was about 5 years old, Grant Hill was on the Mini-Wheats box soaring high above the rim. So, my son started calling it basketball cereal. The name stuck. I think it embarrasses him now when I call it B-ball cereal. All the more reason to do it! So, it’s not without some sadness and nostalgia that B-ball cereal is now forever banished from my house.
> >> Breitbart has served an important role in our national media, though I don’t always agree with all of their stories. More important, I simply have no interest in politicizing my breakfast cereal (or, more accurately, my before bed snack cereal). It’s regretful that you made such a poor decision that 45 million of us who read Breitbart should stop eating your products, but you’ve left me no choice. Heck, it might even be good for my waistline – there are a few cals in the ol’ B-ball cereal. If you change your mind and decide to focus on what you’re good at (making yummy sugary cereal) and stay out of the realm of things you’re not so good at (politics), please send me an e-mail and I’ll head over to the grocery store and restock on B-ball cereal.
>> >> Oh yeah, and this is important enough that I plan to write a blog about it so my readers hopefully make similar decisions!
> >> Yours in yummy little sugary cubes of wheat,
>> >> Dr. Bruce Robertson