Just how healthy is our unswerving trust in brand names?

Kellogg's have shown there's a fine line between advertising and exploitation, says Rupert Cornwell

PARDON the pun, but Kellogg's is in hot water over its current advertising campaign, suggesting fat children who eats its cereals for breakfast can lose weight and avoid school bullies. The cornflake company stands accused of exploitation of misery for commercial gain: is there no limit to the cynical manipulations of today's corporate masters of the universe ?

Kellogg's' defence of its promotion was for its senior marketing manager to boast that "We are Britain's most trusted company. That's why we had the confidence to do this." But what else is to be expected? A collapse of public faith in old-fashioned "institutions" is a worldwide phenomenon. Here, a study last year by the Henley Centre found that trust in Parliament had dropped by four-fifths between 1983 and 1996, to just 10 per cent. Confidence in the civil service tumbled from 40 per cent to 14 per cent, in the legal system and the Church to just 28 per cent. Only the armed forces have resisted the trend - but they're a pretty extreme solution to stop your child getting picked upon at school.

In a sense of course, this massacre of sacred cows is utterly healthy, a breaking loose of the numbing, hypocritical tyranny of its past. But we humans must believe in something. And what doesn't let you down, what is within our control ? Not God, not the courts, not the men from the ministry or the local authority, not your MP - but those stores you visit every week, and the brands they stock, among which you, sovereign in this small area of life at least, can choose. And we ask little of them. Barring beetles in the Rice Krispies or mould on the chocolate bar, they have fulfilled their part of the bargain. Thus the new pillars of our insecure society: Kellogg's with a trust rating of 84 per cent, followed closely by Cadbury, Heinz, Nescafe and Rowntree. The places you buy them are equally esteemed: Boots and Marks & Spencer at 83 per cent, Sainsburys at 77 per cent, the Co-op at 57 per cent. The stores of course have long since offered their own brands. Some have moved much further: Sainsburys into garden equipment, DIY and banking, M&S into just about everything. Now, Kellogg's has merely indulged in a little lateral thinking. Ironically, that 24-carat image, the idyll of nature, breakfast, children and the family that decades of advertising have sealed into our subconscious, has made conventional brand-stretching tough for the company. So Kellogg's has sought to broaden the impact of its cereals themselves, not the range of products sold under its name. Is it wrong for a commercial company to use social issues like obesity and bullying to further its cause? Only, surely, if the claims it makes are false. For all the cautions of well- meaning sociologists that the ads will only make things worse for overweight children by attracting attention to them and - astoundingly - that no link exists between being fat and being bullied, it's hard to accuse Kellogg's of going too far.

Plainly, fat children can get bullied. Plainly, you're less likely to be bullied if you have a bowl of cornflakes, rather than a mountain of potato chips and doughnuts, for breakfast.

"Of course, a cereal breakfast like Kellogg's can't solve complex weight problems," the blurb runs, "but in its own small way, it can really help." Coy maybe, but hardly a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act.

And if we don't like it, then we have only ourselves, and the direction in which we have driven our society, to blame.

"This is an end product of the 1980s privatisations, the privatisation of risk," says Paul Edwards, Henley's chief executive. "The institutions and everyone else are pulling back from sensitive areas like this." So consumer brands, with their capital of trust, move in to fill the gap. We may object, but in society's moral vacuum it's inevitable. And who knows, it may lead to a Kellogg's foundation for the study and treatment of bullying.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Junior DBA (SQL Server, T-SQL, SSIS, SSAS) London - Finance

    £30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior DBA (SQ...

    Business Anaylst

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

    Senior Project Manager

    £60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

    Associate CXL Consultant

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment