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Advertising and Brand Building

6 things brands can do to manage their image during a crisis?

There are times when a brand faces flak for their mistakes or for unfortunate events. There so many instances of this happening.

Remember Tylenol? This is a case study most MBA schools teach to students.

Johnson and Johnson faced a major crisis in 1982 when 7 people died in Chicago, a few hours after consuming the medicine. Authorities confirmed that all of them had had the medicine laced with potassium cyanide.

The management was baffled. Such a thing could not have come from their manufacturing facilities. But there was no time to defend and this could have been the end of the brand and possibly Johnson and Johnson altogether.

They quickly recalled all the Tylenol, set up hotline numbers for help if anyone was in trouble or had doubts, and redesigned their entire packaging to make it tamper proof and more trustworthy.

It was a close shave for the brand.

Likewise, when Subway, the food chain, invested 15 years of backing a guy named Jared Fogle as the face of the brand, they found themselves in hot water when the man was found guilty of being associated with child pornography and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Not an association that any brand would appreciate!

Well, it has happened to many brands: Samsung with its exploding phones, Perrier, Nike and many more.

As the movie Forrest Gump says, “Shit Happens”.

Yes, it does. But when it does, the owners of the brand need to act quickly and in the right manner. In this post, we will look at some of the lessons from history of brands that might prove extremely handy for us if we get caught in a sticky situation.

Be bold and do what is right

When the shit hits the fan, people usually panic and run. Don’t. You need to stand there, be bold and do the right thing. Fix it the best you can. Make amends the best way you can.

If the product is faulty or is posing any risk to the users, recall it, even if it means a huge blow to the P&L. Samsung had to withdraw its 2 million of the phones that were prone to exploding. Forbes estimated the cost of recall to be at around 5.3 billion dollars. Johnson and Johnson did the same when they faced the Tylenol issue. They had to withdraw around 31 million bottles which cost them 125 million USD.

Perrier also did the same in its Benzene case with its 160 million bottles, although only 13 were believed to be contaminated. But such is the integrity shown by these brands that they owned up when fingers were pointed.

Due to their integrity, consumers trust such brands. Consumers know that the brand owners are responsible. No wonder, when Samsung launched its next model the Galaxy note 8, it broke all sales records. Its the same reason why we still trust J&J and Perrier.

Maintain Transparency:

Be transparent. Be an open book that anyone can read. Open up your facilities for inspection by regulatory bodies and trustworthy authorities.

Don’t block investigations if there are any. Cooperate fully and participate in press conferences. In fact, contribute as much as possible to finding the cause of the issue.

If J&J had not allowed the authorities complete access to their sites to find the source of the poison, they would not have gained the trust of the people. It eventually vindicated them and pointed the suspicion towards some twisted killer.

Show humility

Be humble enough to apologize if its your fault. If you have made mistakes, don’t cover it up, share the real cause. Don’t hide things.

Show them your human side. Let the people behind the brands come in front and face the people. People look up to leaders and the people who lead the brands should come to the fore.

Look at Perrier’s example during their Benzene crisis. When the impurities were found in their water, they launched a press conference to address the press and explained the cause of the issue. They came out with the truth that one of their employees forgot to change the filters in one of the plants, which led to naturally present benzene to pass through.

Human errors are possible. And people forgive errors. But what they appreciate more is the brand coming front of them and owning up if they made a mistake.

Generate trust

Get trusted people to talk for you. Use influencers whose reputations are respectable and they stand for something. Do press releases and answer questions. The company leaders should lead from the front as mentioned in the previous point. Ensure consumers understand your integrity.

Use the news channels where people look for sources of reliable information.

When Pepsi faced can tampering rumors in 1993 due to a hoax that syringes were found inside a Pepsi can, they opened their entire process up to the world by making videos of their soda canning process. That’s transparency from the first point. But they went a step further and had the North America CEO of Pepsi, Craig Weatherup, appear on national news along with trusted FDA officials to assure the audience that Pepsi was a safe product.

The trust generated by the FDA officials and the CEO rallied the fans back to the Pepsi support.

Genuine Concern helps

There is a problem and the company might be suffering financially. But the consumer might be suffering physically or emotionally. We should reach out and show to them that we genuinely care about the well-being of the consumer.

J&J, Perrier, everyone set of hotline numbers in those days to support anyone who has suffered or to answer questions of any concerned individuals.

Taj, after the terrorist attack crisis, ensured that all affected members were supported financially. The Tata Trust has been helping out victims since then. You can read about it here.

Genuinely caring about people cements the trust that builds the relationship further.

Fix the problem and come back stronger

You need to do all you can to find the cause of the problem, fix it and go back to running.

When the Tylenol issue happened, Johnson and Johnson offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could help them find the killer who had carried out the heinous act. Although it didn’t still help, but J&J tried all it could.

After this crisis, J&J came up with secure, tamper proof sealed bottles. They created measures so that such an incident could never happen again so easily. They regained the trust of their consumers.

When the Samsung thing happened, they set up a lab of 700 researchers to find the case of their batteries exploding. Although this did not really make it to the news, Samsung was genuinely concerned and went to great lengths to solve the problem. They, of course, reaped the benefits with their Galaxy Note 8 model.

So, being genuine, being truthful and being helpful are some of the critical factors in winning the trust of the consumers again.

Well, that being said, all of us hope that nothing goes wrong with us. But when we grow big, the scale of operations leads to bigger errors sometimes. That is when things go awry.

But if any such misfortune happens, remember the things you need to do to be able to regain the trust and continue offering the value that you promise.

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