Defensive Strategy

Yoplait’s Smart Decision

16 Jun 2011  

Today executives at General Mills announced they were pulling its latest ad for Yoplait.

 The ad features a slim woman debating eating a piece of cheesecake. She tries to rationalize the decision, eventually going for a yogurt after another woman makes that choice. You can see the ad here:

A number of consumers complained about the ad, noting that it might prompt eating disorders.

How did General Mills respond?

Company executives immediately pulled the ad. As the Huffington Post reported:

“We had no idea,” Tom Forsythe, VP of Corporate Communications for General Mills, said to the Huffington Post. “The thought had never occurred to anyone, and no one raised the point. We aren’t sure that everyone saw the ad that way, but if anyone did, that was not our intent and is cause for concern. We thought it best to take it down.”

This was a very smart decision.

The Yoplait team clearly did a lot of consumer research when developing the spot; the insight is spot on. But when an ad inadvertently touches a sensitive issue like eating disorders, there is only one way to respond: take it down.

There are three learning points from the story.

First, even the best marketers can make mistakes. General Mills is a conservative, thoughtful company. If this can happen to Mills it can happen to anyone.

Second, the best way to respond to a negative situation is quickly and with sincerity.

Third, it is always smart to have backup copy, so you have something to run if the lead spot gets into trouble.

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