Posts Tagged ‘crisis communications’

When Brand Love Goes Bad

June 4, 2010

Procter & Gamble has a problem. This spring, they redesigned Pampers diapers making them 20% thinner and more absorbent through what they have billed as Dry Max technology.

For months, parents have complained about babies and toddlers getting severe,  blistery rashes from the “new” diapers. As days went by, the story grew from local conversations in passing to a public Facebook group that (as of today) numbers more than 10,700 members. When the Associated Press picked up the story, it perked up the ears of local and national media. Now there are lawsuits and a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation is underway.

At first, P&G said little. One entity they did talk to? Ad Age was invited inside for a first-hand account of P&G’s response to the unfolding situation. After initially saying little, P&G pushed back, hard.

From carefully worded SEO-optimized statements to mommy blogger courting sessions, P&G’s strategy seemed to bite the hands that feed an $8.5 billion brand.

I have been a loyal Pampers user for two children (almost six years with a one year break in the middle).

In fact, I had a problem with some Pampers about a year ago. P&G smothered me with love and refunded me for a large box of defective diapers. That interaction made me sing their praises even louder for their effective customer service and the fact that they didn’t make me jump through hoops to get a refund. I loved Pampers. I still love them. I just won’t use them.

My one and a half year old is one of the kids who suffered what I classify as a horrific diaper rash. His rash is finally better but I will never forget it.

So many brands market to moms these days. P&G’s situation is a reminder that even the deepest brand love is an ongoing relationship. It’s up to marketers to decide if the relationship merely falters and recovers. Or, is a complete break-up.

Social Media and Its Impact on Brands

May 12, 2010

For many of our healthcare clients, social media is a medium they aren’t quite comfortable using yet. Many question whether it’s useful, how the flow of information can be controlled, who is going to manage it (they certainly don’t have the extra time to do that!) and wonder if they should try using it.

We believe social media can be used advantageously. One way, which is currently playing out in several mainstream news stories, is to use it as a tool to share your side of the story, to provide facts when a crisis situation occurs, and sometimes, an apology, if one is warranted.  

 In a recent Hospital Impact article, Recent Headlines Provide a Lesson for Hospital, author Nancy C. Jean discusses how social media can be used in this exact manner. As you all know by now, BP is waging a battle against negative publicity due to the massive oil spill in the Gulf.  Social media provides BP a real-time venue to explain what they are doing to contain and clean-up the problem. Paul Levy, the well-known blogging CEO of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, has also been experiencing image problems lately due to lack of transparency regarding a relationship with an employee.  Levy, however, did issue an apology through a statement to the media as well as on his blog to his readers. Levy’s blog apology on May 3 has generated a fair amount of support from his readers and will probably help contain the damage to his brand.

Through social media, information (both truth and rumors) has the capability to almost instantaneously reach large numbers of people. It can reinforce or tarnish your brand. But, if you do not participate, you can not respond to threats to your brand.

 As my father used to say, sometimes negative reinforcement works better as a persuasion tool.  So, for those hospitals thinking about whether they should give social media a try, my question is: how can you not use social media as a tool to reach consumers?

The Price of Quality

February 16, 2010

IBM’s Tom Watson once noted that the real challenge to any market leader came not from competitors, but rather from the leader itself (See also market leaders). As of today, Toyota has recalled 8.5 million cars and is suspending production on several models. Each week production is suspended is estimated to cost $400 million.

Much has been written about how the company has handled the crisis. There is certainly plenty to criticize there. It took them forever to admit there was a problem. In fact, it took government intervention. That’s never a good thing in communications. And, although they’ve finally begun to communicate, I’m not very impressed with their response so far. What do you think about their apology spot?

As bad as their crisis communications have been, I think that’s a secondary issue here. It’s interesting this comes a year after they unseated GM as the world’s largest car manufacturer. The real issue is the fact Toyota hocked its position as the world’s best auto manufacturer to become the world’s largest. Why would you do that? Yet another company taking its eye off the ball and forgetting what got it there.

Even if they can repair the damage, it will cost billions. Research is showing they are taking quite a hit in the trust area among customers. That can be the toughest damage to repair for any brand. Trust is very difficult to build and even more difficult to rebuild.

Hospitals can take a lot from Toyota’s failings. Obviously, one thing is to address a crisis quickly, decisively and openly. Most important, (with my apologies to Winston Churchill) never, never, never, never give up consumer trust.


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