Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

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Customer Experience
Last week, my boyfriend surprised me with an early Valentine's Day dinner. I've always enjoyed his cooking, so I was eager to see what he had up his sleeve. Lucky for me, the menu included both the main course (butternut squash soup and chicken scampi, yum!) and dessert (golden yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting). Yet, while the evening itself was unexpected, the greatest shock came when I caught a glimpse of the cake mix box.

Last week, my boyfriend surprised me with an early Valentine's Day dinner. I've always enjoyed his cooking, so I was eager to see what he had up his sleeve. Lucky for me, the menu included both the main course (butternut squash soup and chicken scampi, yum!) and dessert (golden yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting). Yet, while the evening itself was unexpected, the greatest shock came when I caught a glimpse of the cake mix box.You see, on the front of Pillsbury's products, the company highlights the calories per serving and other significant nutrition facts. But, while package touts the seemingly decent 160 calories per one-tenth of the package--that means I can make 10 really large cupcakes, right?--the accompanying fine print might have one wondering about the proclamation's validity.

The fine print redirects the consumer to the side panel, which offers the nutrition facts for both the mix itself and the mix once it's been prepared. It appears that, while the mix alone contains 160 calories per serving, once it's prepared, the serving size grows to 240 calories per one-tenth of the package. (Betty Crocker does the same thing, too.)

I'm not trying to be picky. We all know I'm going to eat the cupcakes regardless of the calorie count, but to deceive the average, potentially oblivious, shopper seems rather manipulative. Pillsbury cannot honestly think that someone would open up the bag of powdered mix and start licking it up like it's some newfangled Fun Dip, so why even display its calorie count so predominantly on the packaging? Perhaps this has been the case for far longer than I recognize, but I cannot help but feel this ploy to be self-serving and misleading.

But such deception isn't limited to calorie counts and cake mix, for stores often mislabel their products to trick consumers looking for great deals. Just the other day, I purchased a new winter coat from Uniqlo. All the coats on the adjoining racks looked similar, differing only in length and color, not style. Yet, while the sign emphasized the sale price, it was not until I reached the checkout counter that the sales associate mentioned that the sign only applied to half the rack. Only the longer coats were on sale. She also admitted that numerous people had made the same mistake, namely because of the intermixed state of disarray, yet the store made no effort to clarify the error or separate the full price items to prevent further confusion.

Purposeful misrepresentation destroys trust and can break even the strongest brand relationships. Both Pillsbury and Uniqlo's products have been reliable and top-notch in the past, but even these minor lies can cause the consumer, i.e. me, to waver, as I will likely approach these companies with an added ounce of skepticism from now on.

But one cannot help but wonder--are there ways for both brands to win back my full-fledged trust? I'm not sure, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Let us know how your company rebuilds and maintains consumer trust in the comments below!

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION