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September 19, 2006

Owning Your Brand During Crisis: Spinach, Hoaxes, and Exploding Batteries

The entire spinach situation in the US has offered us an interesting case study in how brand names deal with business threatening emergencies like this one.

Dole SpinachAs Steve Rubel reports, two well-known brand names have taken entirely different tacks: Whole Foods has been largely silent on the matter, Dole has been very proactive, offering a minute-by-minute update and taking out web-based ads to keep the public informed about what is going on.

The end result is that the perception of the Dole brand is likely to take a boost rather than a knock, while Whole Foods, which really could have built brand name equity off this ("wholesomeness" is, after all, built into its name and its positioning has been the organic, natural supplier of choice), missed an opportunity.

Pick n PayThere are many precedents on how a corporation can take ownership of a crisis and use it to its advantage. One similar to that faced by the spinach brand names comes from South Africa, where food giant Pick n' Pay was recently faced with a hoaxer who claimed to have poisoned a whole assortment of Pick n' Pay products.

Pick n' Pay aggressively advised the public to bring back any Pick N' Pay products for a full refund and kept them informed via the web, radio and newspaper on the status of the problem - which turned out not to be a problem at all.

Faulty Laptop BatteryThe end result was that the company garnered more customer loyalty rather than less because it had proved itself trustworthy in a crisis, and was willing to stand by its customers.

Compare this to the damage done to the Sony and Dell brand names over : Sony and Dell obfuscated, Apple simply came clean. Apple has ultimately suffered the least damage, while its competitors have been mauled.

Own Your Brand logoWhen it comes to protecting your brand name in times of crisis, honesty and communication are always the best policy. To learn more about owning your brand, visit Mike Wagner's Own Your Brand blog.

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Posted by William Lozito at September 19, 2006 12:36 PM
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1 Comment

Silence isn't golden from my perspective either. Why would Whole Foods keep quite for the most part?

When I see these behaviors during times of crisis I wonder if the true character of the company and its leaders is coming through. I wonder if the truth doesn't matter all that much to them, since in crisis they don't step up their communication.

Really helpful insights - thanks for adding your wisdom to the conversation.

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