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Crisis Management: How 3 Brands Recovered Right Away

Mai Le

Jan 28, 2018

Unexpected market forces mean that well-conceived campaigns can still rub audiences wrong, but have you noticed that some brand snafus are seemingly short-lived controversies, while others turn into crises? After reading these examples of brand blips, it bears reminding ourselves that a brand is ever-evolving in the public eye. And having an agile strategy that includes a media intelligence platform might be the easiest way to stay (or get) out of a crisis.

It might be a side effect of how many of us live online, but brand crises seem to be coming at a faster clip than ever before. Uber is a prominent example of a brand that stumbled, kept stumbling, and has yet to recover.

And while some brands have had a hard time coming up for air, others, seemingly poised for a crash, pull back in the nick of time and keep moving along as if nothing happened. By taking a closer look at how brands recovered, we might learn what makes an “almost crisis” peter off and turn into a mere blip.

Even though we believe tracking brand keywords through your media monitoring and social listening tools and keeping an eye out for early warning signs that trouble is heading your way is the best defense against full-scale crisis, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a tip or two from brands who were caught off guard.

Here Are the Ways 3 Brands Recovered

1. Wonder Woman and thinkThin®

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Wonder Woman was one of the most anticipated action films of 2017. As consumers discussed the film on social media prior to its premiere, so did brands in conference rooms. Of course, those discussions would inevitably yield cobranded promotions.

While it’s certain that a variety of snack bars were competing to have the right to sponsor a campaign around the movie, the honor went to thinkThin. Unfortunately for thinkThinit’s their brand name that caused a disconnect with audiences’ expectation.

Blunder Woman? Critics are steaming that Wonder Woman is being used to promote "Think Thin" diet bars. Do they have a point? Or is it no big deal? We want YOUR take, and we'll dish, 10am today on Fox!

Posted by Colorado's "Everyday" Show on Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Everything else being equal, if the bar were named thinkHealthy, (presumably) there wouldn’t have been an almost-crisis. So what ended up happening?

Condemnation rained from mainstream media and social media for a week or so, and by the time the film was released in June 2017, there was little mention of the ill-conceived partnership. Wonder Woman went on to become a huge blockbuster and neither brand was boycott.

Why did it blow over so quickly? Because 2017 was a hard yet empowering year for women. We started the year at the biggest international march in history and finished with large clap backs with the #metoo movement. And while they didn’t call off the campaign, neither brand promoted it on social media. There was no press release and the partnership was a trip to the premiere presumably, that continued, but there was no mea culpa or press release announcement of the winner(s). Without increased promotion of the partnership, it faded from social media, as the public moved on to other pressing issues.

Meltwater Search Tonality

According to Meltwater’s Insight Reports, negative sentiment around the Wonder Woman and thinkThin® partnership’ spiked and disappeared within a week.

2. Marvel and Northrop Grumman

Timed to launch at the NYC Comic-Con, Marvel and Northrop Grumman based their partnership on an existing template: slick, branded superheroes with superpowers that embody their sponsor’s corporate values and culture. In this case, it was a new team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers. The goal was to highlight aerospace initiatives, STEM education, and forward-thinking technology by Northrop Grumman. Turns out Northrop Grumman’s reputation as a defense contractor rubbed comic aficionados wrong. Tellingly, one person pointed out that Tony Stark’s company produced weaponry, forcing him to turn his back on it when he realized its affects on humanity. Within 24 hours of the very vocal outcry on Twitter, the activation campaign and relationship was canceled.

Admitting that they didn’t think the partnership through, Marvel pulled out. A quick mea culpa made the almost-crisis immediately dissipate and Marvel went on to enjoy their lauded position at the NYCC.

Meltwater Social Media Exposure Graph

3. Bedrock “See Detroit Like We Do”

Bedrock Detroit launched a campaign whose aim was to empower their namesake city. The tagline was “See Detroit Like We Do” and included images of urban professionals enjoying a downtown life of dining out, entertainment, and work. The thing is, in planning the shoot and booking models, the campaign forgot an essential aspect of Detroit, its diversity.

Considering the levels of planning and approval these images must have gone through before being placed on posters around the metro-area, it’s a wonder that someone didn’t say, “Hey, if we’re using this tagline, should we make sure it includes different aspects of the population, whether that is skin color, age, family structure, or other socioeconomic factors?”

Once the outrage popped up, Bedrock Detroit founder, Dan Gilbert, personally issued an apology and the ad campaign was pulled. Even as the mainstream media covered the issue’s eruption on social media, the general public moved on to other matters. The question that remains is, will Bedrock be more conscientious going forward? Will they show Detroit as “a city that is open, diverse, inclusive?” Hopefully using the data that their community and audience is sharing with them about their campaigns will guide their future campaigns.

Meltwater Tonality Graph

According to Meltwater’s Insight Reports, the Bedrock campaign caused tonality (sentiment) to dip negatively for the Detroit realtor, but within two weeks the brand was back in the green.

PR Takeaways

Using a media monitoring and social listening platform likely assisted these brands in quickly responding to their communities. Considering how quickly decisions were made, it looks like Marvel and Bedrock Detroit had crisis plans in place. Springing into action to stem the blood flow with succinct apologies and pulling the campaigns in question requires both an agile and prepared PR team. And while those responsible for the thinkThin partnership can’t necessarily apologize for their approach (since it’s the product’s name that caused the public to react), their ability to keep their cool and step away from the ledge also indicates that a crisis plan was likely already in place. Their decision to not promote (if not quite cancel) their #thinkWonderWoman campaign resulted in social media moving on by June 8, less than a week after the film’s premiere. Every one of these brands was spared a protracted crisis by their quick thinking and prepared comms team.

To make sure you have signposts in place before your brand is mentioned in social media, download our e-book on crisis comms. Being prepared for a crisis well before you’ll need it is the easiest way to recover quickly.

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