9 brands prove vulnerability is good for business

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Rob Petersen



brand who are vulnerable

New media channels – digital, social media and mobile – change marketing from a monologue to a conversation. So, in the spirit of a dialogue, shouldn’t brands say, “I’m sorry,”  when they make a mistake?

Some do and even turn a misstep to an advantage when they:

  • Admit the mistake fast
  • Respond with honestly
  • Say what is going to be fixed

Here’s how 9 brands proved vulnerability is good for business.

  • AMAZON: Remotely deleted George Orwell’s “1984” from Kindle devices. Consumers were angry to discover the book had suddenly vanished from their Kindles. Jeff Bezos posted an apology admitting the act was “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with [Amazon’s] principles.”
    Amazon overcame an outrage and Amazon exceeded its projected Kindle sales+60% for the year.
  • APPLE: Intended to give Google Maps a run for the money; instead, Apple Maps was a failure from the start. It functioned poorly and misdirected users. CEO Tim Cook issued an an immediate and open apology. The company didn’t lose stride during a period when it was rapidly increasing sales and its stock price.
  • BODYFORM: a UK maker of feminine hygiene products was called out by a snarky male on its Facebook page. The CEO apologized on YouTube with an equally snarky but appropriate response from someone, who wasn’t a customer, trying to pick a fight. It nullified the attack, generated great PR and brand awareness. The video on YouTube has 5,320,375 views. See for yourself.

  • DKNY: After a photographer realized that DKNY was using his photo in a window without his permission, he mobilized his community to share a post asking DKNY to donate $100,000 to a local YMCA in lieu of compensation. DKNY responded quickly by way of an apology that it was an accident promised to donate $25,000 to the YMCA. The photographer accepted it was an honest mistake and thanked them for the donation.
  • DOMINO: Via TV spots, Facebook, You and Twitter, J. Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president, expressed how important it was for their company to listen to their consumers – their most important asset. Domino’s profits rose to $23.6MM for the year as a result. Here’s the story.

  • KITCHEN AID: Someone who tweets for KitchenAid thought they were posting from their personal account, but tweeted as KitchenAid instead. It happens  but some tweets got pretty offensive, including one at Barack Obama’s late grandmother. Head of KitchenAid Cynthia Soledad took responsibility for the tweet and offered an apology to Barack Obama and his family. It teaches the lesson to carefully choose the people who post for your company.
  • JOHNSON & JOHNSON: Found themselves with a customer loyalty problem when a particular brand of tampon in the O.B. line was discontinued in North America. People thought the whole O.B. line was being discontinued.
    A Facebook group called for a boycott of all J & J products. A musical apology was sent out to over 65,000 loyal O.B. users, a list that covered about a 1,000 distinct names. The response was overwhelmingly positive from women.

  • O2: A European mobile service company, during a massive network outage, O2′s Twitter account became inundated with tweets by frustrated customers. Instead of issuing standard corporate responses, O2 responded to these tweets with an honest and light-hearted demeanor. Their human approach was extremely refreshing and sentiment changed dramatically as a result.
  • TACO BELL: Taco Bell recently combated a traditional attack (a class action lawsuit charging that the restaurant’s meat isn’t really beef) with new media techniques. On Twitter, Taco Bell linked to comedian Steven Colbert’s musings on the controversy; on Facebook, they offered free tacos, encouraging customers to make up their own minds about the beef in question. 7,000,000 million loyal Facebook “friends” showed their enthusiasm and the lawsuit has been dropped.

If your business is using social channel and a mistake is made or your brand comes under attack, are you prepared to own up to it like these brands?

Do these examples give you an idea what to do? What do they prove to you?

3 to “9 brands prove vulnerability is good for business”

  1. PeggyLee says:

    @AmericanAir is not on that list which does not surprise me
    Shame on you AA.  You could at least apologize if you can’t afford to fix my brand new bag that you ripped the handle off

  2. robpetersen says:

    PeggyLee Thanks Peggy. Sorry about your bag and your experience with @americanair. The examples also seem to prove when companies offer insincere responses, they convey invulnerability and it bad for business. Hope @americanair learns and does the right thing.

  3. PeggyLee says:

    robpetersen PeggyLee Thanks, Rob.  Truly, from my experience dealing with their Twitter Team, I am convinced that their SM team cannot effect anyone, that they are “programmed” to respond in “very nice word”, accept no responsibility, offer no apology, just basically stick to the script.  Oh well, I’ll post about it whenever the topic comes my way on line.

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