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Coca-Cola and Consumer Empowerment

The decision by Coca-Cola to remove BVO (brominated vegetable oil) from its fruit and sports drinks is the latest, but definitely not the last, example of how businesses are increasingly subject to the power of the consumer’s voice.

Sparked by the online campaign of a teenager in Mississippi through www.change.org, it proves how disaffected stakeholders – whether consumers, shareholders or employees – can channel their energies and pressure to get the leaders of one of the world’s biggest companies to listen.

Technology is a growing force in pressing for increased transparency amongst businesses of all sizes (consider the impact of glassdoor.com on recruits looking at business’ corporate cultures).  It is a far cry from when consumers involved in the Hoover free flights promotion in the 1990s had to buy shares in Maytag, Hoover’s US parent company, to take their battle to the AGM in Iowa to make their views known.

Twitter and other social media allow consumers – in their broadest sense – to beam their views globally, in an instant, to ensure the promises they are owed by brands are honoured.

From the brand’s perspective, being held to account for its actions at every turn can be disruptive, particularly when plans to be more open and transparent need accelerating.  Forcing corporates and their leaders to listen harder to the chatter is now the price of entry rather than a differentiator as in the past.

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