When it was revealed that the CEO of Whole Foods had posted anonymous online comments disparaging his competitors, the company properly took a lot of heat. For a company that promises wholesomeness and integrity, misleading people online was a massive violation of its brand promise. It’s a case study in how to break the bonds of trust between a brand and its customers.
Now, months later, comes word that the company has banned its executives from making any comments to online forums that the company doesn’t control (link). This is the wrong answer. If you have a brand that promises trust, the right way to rebuild that trust is more openness, not tighter control.
What Whole Foods should have done was ban all of its employees from making anonymous comments online, but encouraged them to get out and interact with customers on the web. It’s the same as encouraging your employees to talk to customers in the store — the more you interact, the deeper your relationship will be. The ban on messages implies that Whole Foods has something to hide, and it robs the company of one of its best tools for rebuilding trust. It makes the problem worse.