Strapped for cash? Just eat cereal for dinner!

I know a lot of people are doing it tough at the moment thanks to increasing financial pressures. And for those struggling with the cost of groceries, they would do well to lower costs by eating “cereal for dinner”.

As the CEO of Kellogg’s, Steve Cahillane, explained, “Cereal for dinner is something that is probably more on trend now, and we would expect [it] to continue as that consumer is under pressure.”

If what I have just said has provoked some rage in you, you would be joining the many outraged people who heard these words spoken by the multimillionaire CEO of cereal company, Kellogg’s (not by me!).

People have taken his comments to be a twist on ‘Let them eat cake’. Now it’s ‘Let them eat cereal’, or ‘Let them eat flakes’ (while I get my bonus for the year because of the increased sales).

Now where did he go wrong? Cereal can be a cheaper meal, just ask any uni student who alternatives between two-minute noodles and cereal for dinner. So what did he do to evoke outrage and criticism?

He failed to consider other perspectives and how his audience might receive what he was saying – to the point that when he was questioned about his comments, he stood by them without assessing what would make them questionable.

Is a millionaire giving simplistic advice to someone struggling financially, going to be received well? Immediately you have a context that changes the meaning of what you say. So that what you say is not received in the way you intended or expected. 

And are you in a position to be giving advice on something you are not an expert in, e.g. is he an expert in making ends meet? People don’t see him as that. So he shouldn’t be entering that territory where he doesn’t have expertise or experience to comment. 

And given his position as one who benefits financially from people choosing cereal for dinner, and given his economic status, he should leave this to someone else to share – especially given that this is a sore point that comes with great emotions. 

People who are experiencing financial hardship do not feel matter-of-fact about needing to settle for less in order to make ends meet. And so hearing someone speak about it in a matter-of-fact way and with a simile, lacks perceived empathy. And for that person to also be far removed from financial hardship themselves, it is jarring.

As author Art Mortel said: “Whenever I’m losing at chess, I consistently succeed if I get up and stand behind my opponent and see the board from his side. Then I start to discover the stupid moves I’ve made because I can see it from his viewpoint.”

Steve Cahillane would have done well to do the same – although trying to understand the cost of living crisis as a multi-millionare might be a step of empathy too far. 

So instead of ‘let them eat cereal’, this CEO is being told to eat his words.

If you’re looking for an impactful way to communicate a message with your audience, get in touch with Pure Public Relations to discuss how we can help you.

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