Brand crisis management - when the crisis is out of your control!

Maeve Taylor

Last year I wrote an article about brands recovering after a crisis. The article reviewed a brand’s management of a crisis following a decision the company took which causes a negative reaction.

With the 'popularity' of the more recent Tide pod challenge, we thought we would take another look at brand crisis management from a different angle. How does a brand manage a crisis when the crisis is out of their control?

Normally when something like this matter happens, a brand is blindsided and so the management here is about reactive marketing and damage limitation in the most effective way possible.

Let’s see how brands responded when they were faced with some of the biggest controversies this decade…

1. The Tide pod challenge

The Tide pod challenge went viral in January 2018. It all started when a YouTuber spotted an opportunity to gain traffic. Those who viewed the video were impressionable and so others began the pod-eating challenge at home meaning it spread like wildfire. When people became sick, Tide had to step in…

It began working with YouTube and Amazon to remove videos. Next, they began communicating with consumers on social media. It shared guidance using clever responses – they knew those partaking in the challenge were millennials, so it used memes, gifs, and social influencers to spread the warning.

Following the good management of this crisis, the challenge’s popularity has diminished and Tide's brand has remained strong.

2. Tiger Woods’ undoing

The man, the legend and his fall from grace. He was at the top of his game in 2009 and since then scandal after scandal has been revealed. His first affair was revealed in 2009 and nearly a decade later he is still hitting the headlines, this time with a DUI in 2017.

So, with such a talented sports star, what did brands do when the first scandal hit? Many chose to cut ties. Accenture one of his biggest sponsors ended the association straightaway, it announced they did not want to be associated with Tiger. Several other brands made the same decision such as Gatorade, Tag Heuer and PepsiCo.

But, what about those who stuck around? Nike, for example, has been there throughout it all. Many perceive this to be because their products align with the sports star and not the family man. He did not cheat in his sport, that was their focus and therefore, they remained loyal to his sponsoring.

"Use the influencers in your field. Innovative 'intrapreneurs' can help you find new ways to position your brand to stay relevant; proactively staying ahead of your competitors."

3. Domino’s employees’ bad hygiene

In 2009, Domino’s were forced into brand crisis management. This time there was no face behind the scandal, this came from within the company. And, thanks to social media, it went viral. A video of Domino’s employees surfaced of them tampering with food they were delivering to customers.

The company were blindsided. But due to the severity of the crisis, the brand enforced the law, firing the employees and making a public statement on their dealings of the crisis.

In addition to the law, the brand offered a channel for customers to contact them. Using this channel, they were able to address concerns and it seems this behaviour ensured the effect of the video was not everlasting.

4. The Lance Armstrong scandal

Everything Lance Armstrong had achieved in sport, and overcome in his personal life, made him a beloved American. He was a positive role model for many people, all for different reasons but all for the good he done throughout his life.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t to last. It was revealed he had been cheating in his sport for years. This scandal was detrimental to the Lance Armstrong image but, most importantly, it damaged the purity of the Livestrong brand – the charity he had started.

The charity divorced Armstrong in a bid to save their brand. They saw a decline in revenue; however, after looking around at the publics’ opinion of the company, it seems many have managed to separate the brand and the cyclist; although, they have never been able to return to the height of their popularity and have had to shift to more traditional charitable operations to survive.

As with Tiger and Nike, people have separated the cycling scandal and the good work the charity provides to so many. The brand has distanced itself from the founder and are lucky to be providing such a service that people are able to look past him and continue to support them.

5. Snapchat update upsets Kylie Jenner

Who knew a social media star could so dramatically affect a brand’s Wall Street value! If you’re part of the Kardashian/Jenner clan, you have that power. Recently after Snapchat made some updates to the layout of the app, Kylie Jenner professed her displeasure and that she would no longer be using the app. A simple tweet caused the company’s value to drop by over $1bn!

The company’s response… stick it out! Although, they reverted some elements to the previous design, they stuck by their redesign and told people to get used to it. It seems this was the right choice… the negative talk around the app developments has subsided and the company’s value has increased once again, albeit after some months!

This influence on the value of a company really shows what a crisis can do, even when it is out of your control and we understand that B2B companies will not have situations that arise so quickly; however, there are key learnings to ensure your company is proactively marketing.

  • Disrupt the status quo to reduce the risk of buyer fatigue. Your products are what businesses want; however, disrupting the norm can ensure you stay ahead of the game. If you don’t disrupt, you can be sure one of your competitors will!
  • Use the influencers in your field. Innovative 'intrapreneurs' can help you find new ways to position your brand to stay relevant; proactively staying ahead of your competitors.
  • Be change-ready. Don’t be afraid to say yes to new things!

Now is the time to say 'yes' to change. If you want to disrupt the market, get in touch with TBT Marketing's creative and social experts. Drop us a line: [email protected] or +44 (0)1373 469270.

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