Coca-Cola and others have delayed new advertising campaigns following last week’s terrorist attacks.

With attention focused far away from lifestyle-enhancing purchases, consumer businesses must remain in tune with the public mood. In the longer term, however, consumer goods manufacturers will need to re-evaluate their advertising campaigns and operations to take account of increasing consumer power. Addressing their social responsibilities is a good first step.

In the wake of last week’s horrific attacks on the US, many consumer packaged goods companies, led by the

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Coca-Cola Company

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Coca Cola Company, have announced they will indefinitely delay new advertising and product launch campaigns.

 Coca-Cola’s new advert campaign, under the tagline “Life Tastes Good”, was due to be launched September 11. Unilever, Procter and Gamble and Nestle have all taken similar steps. Meanwhile, as a gesture of sympathy, support and smart public relations, food companies, including Campbell Soup, PepsiCo and ConAgra, have donated goods and services to aid the rescue and recovery efforts in New York and Washington DC.

But beyond such heartfelt gestures, consumer goods companies now face the reality of revising their business decisions in the short and long term. As a sense of normality slowly returns, advertisements and marketing events will resume. Meantime, estimates of losses for the broadcast industry alone stand at around $40 million daily. Recouping such costs will be a top priority for an advertising and media industry already reeling from the market downturn, but the national mood in the US is still not entirely ‘business as usual’ and may not be for some time.

With more than $70 billion spent on global food industry mergers in the past year, companies planning rebranding efforts must first carefully consider consumer perception and possible backlash. In addition to a growing worldwide anti-branding movement and decreasing customer loyalty, companies must now be more politically sensitive as well. In navigating the minefield of issues, manufacturers would do well by heeding public sentiment. Nike learnt this lesson the hard way, being forced to revamp its supply chain after very public accusations of running sweatshops.

While the halt in advert planning might dent revenues in the short term, companies should use this opportunity to re-evaluate how they approach the consumer base, which is increasingly demanding companies to be socially sensitive. An insensitive move at this moment in time is likely to be more costly than a delayed product launch.

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