In short, Chobani demonstrated a deep understanding of what human beings (and customers are human beings) need in order to feel safe: We need to feel as though information is being shared openly rather than being kept from us in order to serve some corporate agenda. Chobani also understands that “I don’t know if the recall will expand, but I’m working to figure that out and I will get back in touch as soon as possible” is 100 times more effective than “The great majority of the product is probably fine, so there’s likely no need to be concerned.” Ulukaya and his team understand the importance of transparent communications to reinforcing its integrity (and don’t miss Bob Milligan’s column on the importance of this trait in this newsletter). Because of that, Chobani never loses sight of the fact that customers are people first, and that any brand that wants to be truly embraced should embrace its own humanity.
As Socrates put it, “Be as you wish to seem.” But that’s increasingly difficult to pull off when you’ve got human egos involved, not to mention boards of directors, attorneys and other such trappings of modern business. Perhaps being the sole owner of this private company gave the Turkish-born Ulukaya some additional leeway. One could write an entire separate column on immigrant values and ethics as they relate to modern-day American corporate culture.
Regardless of where you were born, certainly the great majority of dairy farm executives run their own show and, hence, have the leeway required to make more independent ethical decisions. How will you use this leeway?