My First Social Media Foray in 1993 – General Mills, Fingos and H. Brewster Atwater

While looking through old files last week, I stumbled across a file that documents my first exposure to social media.

In 1993, General Mills introduced a new product called Fingos – a cereal product that you could eat with your fingers and on the run.  Unfortunately, the product was a little ahead of it’s time and it flopped.  There was also an issue with the product name.  I am a 3rd generation Hungarian and knew that “fingos” means to pass gas in that language.  The issue was even mentioned in Michael White’s “A Short Course in International Marketing Blunders”.

Being a General Mills shareholder and that I used to live in the shadow of their corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, I decided to write a somewhat tongue-in-cheek letter to H. Brewster Atwater who was the Chariman and CEO of General Mills at that time.  I got a very warm and humorous reply from H. Brewster and some free coupons to try Fingos.

When I look back on this event, this probably turns out to be my first foray into social media and having a conversation as customer/shareholder to a company.  While the technology has changed (I faxed my letter and received a reply via mail), the process has not changed.  Today, I would probably blog about the issue, discuss it on a forum or tweet about it on Twtter.  But in the end, General Mills did the “right” social media thing, and both listened to and acknowledged my comments.

As I was writing this post, I did a quick search for a General Mills corporate blog, product forum or wiki and was not able to find anything – so surprisingly, the General appears to be stuck in the 1990s like 88% of the Fortune 500 and is still at the social media starting line.

In any case, I know you’ll find my exchange with H. Brewster Atwater to be amusing and ‘fun’.  Just think how much better this would have played out in a corporate blog!

Here is the original letter I sent to H. Brewster:

My Letter to General Mills - June 1993

And here is a copy of his reply:

I’m so glad to have found my old files and have enjoyed this trip down ‘memory lane’.

3 thoughts on “My First Social Media Foray in 1993 – General Mills, Fingos and H. Brewster Atwater

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