Thursday, 18 September 2008

Perceptions of Cow and Gate

After my (slightly petty) complaint about Cow and Gate, I set up a basic monitoring alert for "Cow and Gate" and discovered that a recent TV commercial has attracted criticism in the UK and ROI.

Half Pint Pixie complained to the Food Safety Authority (Ireland) about this ad which, according to the blog, confuses follow on milk and infant formula and idealises formula milk over breast milk and Boycott Nestle also flashed up, with concerns over product contamination.

So what impact have these websites had on Cow and Gate's reputation? I think it's significant.

Both websites have a greater authority than measured by how many sites are linking to them and how authoritative those sites are, on average.
  • Half Pint Pixie has 233 sites linking to it which are (on average) 240 times more authoritative than that site
  • Boycott Nestle has 167 / 114
  • Cow and Gate has just 71 / 60
Search engines
Both sites are ranked in the top 20 (13th and 14th) results in Google for a search of 'Cow and Gate Ad' whilst five other sites about Cow and Gate's advertising appear in the first two pages. A search for 'Cow and Gate advertising standards' is even worse for the company. Negative reports are 3rd 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th 9th and 10th.

Even a search for Cow and Gate (which over 18,000 people do each month according to Google) shows that the company is vulnerable to negative articles being displayed prominently.

Social networks
The videos have been well received on YouTube with over 30,000 views and largely favourable comments. However, they are not substantive and largely refer to the 'cute babies' rather than the ethics of the ad.

So in conclusion, Cow and Gate's website carries little authority. This means that the company's defence of the advert is hard to find and that anyone concerned about the company's advertising practices is only likely to find further criticisms rather than arguments in defence. Although the videos are widely viewed and favourably received, this is probably in insufficient numbers to outweigh the negative impact of the controversy.

If Cow and Gate were to engage in the debate, they could improve the authority of their website and enable customers who are interested in hearing a balanced debate, the information to make an informed decision.

I think the information is probably there, on their own site. And the social networking element of is innovative for a large company. But - as so often - the information isn't packaged well for web 2.0.


half pint pixie said...

Hi, thanks for the link! Although I just killed my technorati link history by moving my blog URL to a few days ago, so my authority is now a bit on the small side again :)

It is really interesting how company's sites can be overshadowed on the web by the sheer numbers of personal sites & forum posts which show up on searches. I guess another good example is if you google anything to do with Nestle, you'll always find info on the boycott within one or two clicks.

tracy said...

Might be worth checking perceptions on places like facebook!

I also find if I leave a negative comment on industry type sites, like Brand Republic they don't get published.

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