“There is no such thing as bad publicity,” as the old adage says. While too much (or the wrong kind of) bad publicity can do irreparable damage to your brand, you can still squeeze some good out it. We all learn from our mistakes; he bigger the mistake, the bigger the lesson.
Below I’ve listed some of the bigger corporate gaffes in the past decade, and what other businesses can do to avoid these situations.
Toyota has had a sterling reputation for quality that has lasted decades, but even they are subject to the occasional lapse now and again. In 2009, Toyota vehicles were claimed to suffer from unintended acceleration, which could (and in one case, did) lead to serious accidents. It was a serious blow to the company’s brand integrity. Despite the challenges, Toyota handled the scandal remarkably well by responding quickly to complaints and recalling affected vehicles.
The lesson: Don’t sweep issues under the rug. Act swiftly and decisively to positively affect customer perception.
McDonald’s Twitter Tragedy
In January 2012, McDonald’s promoted the #McDStories hashtag on Twitter so that people could talk about their positive experiences with the brand. Unfortunately, this open channel also allowed people to chime in with their horror stories as well, leading to a flood of negative press. Despite McDonald’s attempts to steer the discussion with its own positive tweets, it couldn’t change the flow of conversation.
The lesson: Don’t assume that you know how people will respond. When asking for feedback from the public, expect and be prepared for negative reactions from dissatisfied customers. Have procedures in place to handle and address them.
On March 9, 2011, someone with access to the Chrysler Twitter account tweeted a disparaging message about Detroit drivers, which led to backlash from customers and Detroit drivers a like. It turns out that the offending tweeter was from a New Media Strategies employee, Chrysler’s social media agency, who probably confused the corporate account with his own. NMS promptly fired the employee.
The lesson: Always double check communications before they are sent out. Even if the message is what you intend to send, consult others to see if the communication is appropriate and in good taste to avoid unfavorable reactions.
In one of the greatest examples of corporate responsibility and crisis management, Johnson & Johnson successfully responded to reports of tampered Tylenol products that lead to several deaths. Instead of washing their hands of the situation (which they could’ve done, since the party responsible was an unrelated third party), Johnson & Johnson took an active role in the crisis and warned people about the situation. Not only that, but they suspended all advertising and recalled the entire stock of products, re-introducing it later on with tamper-proof bottles and massive discounts.
The lesson: The entire incident is a lesson in corporate responsibility, public safety, crisis management, and marketing. Johnson & Johnson handled the situation perfectly, and it should be studied by executives everywhere.
Has your brand ever encountered or experienced any bad press? What did you learn from the experience?