Tag Archives: crisis management

Coca-Cola: Call me anything, just not ‘gay’

29 Jan

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Coca-Cola or Coca-Cock up? It’s hard to tell when this global brand keeps making marketing mistakes.

After asking fans to share a personalised coke, Coca-Cola’s sub brand – Vitamin Water – fell foul of calling one unlucky US customer a ‘retard’. And now, according to BBC Trending, the South African coke microsite has banned people from calling their can of coke ‘Gay’.

‘Computer error’ I hear you ask? Well, technical glitches don’t tend to read:

Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name.

The brand has since apologised and resolved the issue by clarifying which names can be used on its social media led channel by listing them on the site. But, if Coca-Cola thinks it can move on swiftly it’s highly mistaken.

With the 2014 Winter Games around the corner – featuring Jamaica (probably the most exciting thing about the event) – rightly or wrongly this has definitely become a gay rights issue.

Although the Games wouldn’t happen without its sponsors, it’s down to all marketeers, regardless of what country they’re based in, to communicate with one another to ensure they have an integrated approach. Remember that word? In this industry it doesn’t just look pretty on paper, it means something.

Sure, some might agree that Sochi shouldn’t be punished for South Africa’s mistakes but the truth is a quick phone call could have ensured the brand isn’t tarnished in every time zone. With Russia attracting attention for the wrong reasons since it passed legislation banning propaganda of ‘non traditional sexual relations among minors’, it’s important that businesses know which side of the fence they’re sitting on. Otherwise you’ll have international media, bloggers and entire communities hating on you, including Gay activist John Aravosis.

It’s time for marketeers to take responsibility for their actions because, with this company in particular, ‘sorry’ is wearing thin. If you’re going to put consumers in charge, then you have to be prepared for the consequences.

If in doubt, leave it out! What do you think?

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Costco begs for forgiveness after being caught out on Twitter

25 Nov

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I’m normally an advocate for social media silence, but national retailer Costco was quick to repent for its sins with a statement – after the brand was caught out last week.

To put it into context, a Californian pastor noticed that a stack of Bibles were labelled as fiction in one of its stores. Now, you might not believe that this book contains the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but there’s no need for the brand to potentially offend the 246m Christians in the US.

So how did Costco respond after the pastor blasted the company on Twitter? With a watertight crisis management statement that followed the classic ‘get out of jail’ formula:

The formula
Shift blame + Take blame + Olive branch solution = Peace is restored

What Costco said
Costco’s distributor mislabelled a small percentage of the Bibles. However, we take responsibility and should have caught the mistake. We are correcting this with them for future distribution. In addition, we are immediately relabelling all mislabelled Bibles. We greatly apologise for this error.

By the time this was issued it was too little too late. Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach’s tweet had already shocked his congregation, who questioned if Costco was guilty of religious discrimination. And 1,466 followers, 253 retweets, 88 favourites and a flurry of national news stories later, it got so out of hand the pastor had to calm his flock down by claiming he wasn’t angry, just interested.

The one thing Costco didn’t do was use its social media channels to defend itself. Perhaps it was trying to bury bad news or take the approach that what its customers don’t know won’t hurt them (or the business). But failing to maximise its 1m reach on Facebook seems strange, especially when its Twitter pages are such a mess.

Well, at least Caleb has a pinch of inspiration for his next sermon and has successfully engaged with his audience. But the moral of this story is that if you’re truly sorry for your actions, God will forgive your mistakes.

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Coca-Cola loses its fizz after insulting customer

22 Sep

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Have you heard the one about Coca-Cola calling one of its customers a ‘retard‘ via its latest promotion?

Ok, maybe you haven’t because it happened in Canada. But here’s what happened:

Blake Loates bought home a bottle of Coca-Cola’s Vitamin Water earlier this week and she was in for a shock when she unscrewed the cap, which read ‘You Retard’ on the inside. Some people may have found it funny (personally I don’t, and even less so coming from a global brand) but Blake certainly didn’t because her sister suffers from cerebral palsy.

Her father wrote a letter of disgust forcing Coca-Cola to own up to its politically incorrect mistake – which it did quite well. But the reason the brand manager (or PR) cited for the inappropriate wording was a language mix up (‘retard’ meaning ‘delayed’ or ‘late’ in French), which relates a wider promotion the brand was running.

The fact that more people may have or will continue to open up the phrase before the manufacturing process is discontinued is shocking – and the fact that Coca-Cola has undone its apology to the family, by not noticing the mistake long before it went public, is dumb.

There’s some small-scale crisis management to be done now, in my opinion, because consumers won’t remember the story being a water bottle lid ‘lost in translation’, it’ll become ‘Coca-Cola calls cerebral palsy teenager a retard’. But for some reason the drinks company has put this issue to the bottom of its ‘to do’ list as it looks to push ahead with its international obesity campaign.

Of course a stunt like this won’t damage a brand like that, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t show empathy. I’d have liked to have seen Coca-Cola show some personality by making the Loates family feel like a valued customer and sending some freebies. Essentially, the company needs the family to publicly say the right things to override the negative comments so everyone can see that the situation was dealt with.

This time, Coca-Cola might not have lost its bottle with the complaint, but it’s certainly lost its fizz.

Would this bad PR put you off your favourite soft drink?

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