It can take you years to build up your reputation, but within a few moments a poorly planned campaign can see the reputation you have spent so long building fall to pieces. When it does go wrong, and the proverbial s**t is hitting the proverbial fan, there are ways to bounce back. Here are the best examples of brands who made a Tyson Fury-like comeback and fought back when all odds were against them.
KFC running out of chicken
In the face of adversity, it was KFC’s decision to find humour that was their saving grace.
Earlier this year the brand ran out of chicken in 870 of their stores across the UK and Ireland due to unforeseen circumstances with their delivery partner. KFC is usually good value for money and when it comes to their PR and communications they didn’t disappoint; following the chicken shortage they began rolling out a range of adverts in newspapers with the letters rearranged on their famous buckets to FCK, which made the whole situation much more light-hearted.
What can brands take from this? KFC lost their main selling point for a short while and were able to laugh it off and create a crisis comms plan that helped them to restore their brand to its former glory. In short, humour is a good option for some crisis situations; kudos are definitely in order to KFC.
There's gossip in the hen house, here's the facts... pic.twitter.com/lEuyiOZx2h
— KFC UK & Ireland (@KFC_UKI) February 21, 2018
Nike ft Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick: you can know nothing about American Football and still have some awareness of who he is and why his names have hit the headlines.
Kaepernick, back in 2016, was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and grabbed the world’s attention as he first chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem in a protest against police brutality. Despite being made unemployed by the 49ers he was loyal to his beliefs and continued protests, which saw other players join him, all choosing to stay on their knees and not stand.
Two years later, Nike recruited Kaepernick as the face of their new campaign that worked with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The video that supported the campaign was inspirational for many and paid tribute to many famous sports stars. However, this wasn’t a universally shared opinion as their stocks initially fell by 3%, people started cutting Nike logos out of their clothes or going as far as to burn them and President Trump strongly condemned the campaign (of course).
What did Nike do to combat this uproar? Nothing. They stuck to their guns and, after the initial panic, sales increased by 31%, returning them to the household favourite that they were before the crisis set in.
Pepsi with or without a needle?
Just like getting your vaccinations before going to an exotic country, Pepsi was involved in a bizarre incident where a syringe was found in one of their cans. Much like many incidents of this nature, the following days and weeks brought more reports of Pepsi that had been tampered with, however these were all found to be false. Whether there is truth in the matter or not, negative press in this instance is always bad and in response to this Pepsi worked with the FDA to eliminate any wrongdoing from the popular fizzy drink.
In terms of crisis comms, Pepsi produces four videos that thoroughly showed the canning process in order to regain the trust of their consumers who turned their back on the brand. Furthermore, CEO Craig Weatherup took the evidence onto news channels to prevent the false news from spreading further.
Pepsi went to extreme lengths to bat away these false allegations which was crucial in overcoming this crisis - staying silent could have led to an array of rumours being created, more consumers losing trust in the brand and the start of the end for the brand.
Tide pods are friends, not food
As part of a mindless, moronic and stupid challenge, people across America were filming themselves eating Tide Pods as part of a Tide Pod Challenge. It is difficult to plan for a circumstance that is so mindbogglingly stupid that surely no one would do it, but Procter & Gamble duly delivered when this started to leak into the mainstream.
They released two light-hearted tweets addressing the situations, one of them involving New England Patriot’s Rob Gronkowski. The New England Patriots player featured in a 21-second video, where the brand was telling their followers on Twitter to not eat Tide Pods (obviously).
There wasn’t much else they could do because they had already put signs and locks on their packaging to discourage the consumption of Tide Pods. A great example of always expect the unexpected (no matter how stupid it might seem).
What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else.
Eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA, and we asked our friend @robgronkowski to help explain. pic.twitter.com/0JnFdhnsWZ
— Tide (@tide) January 12, 2018
Uber relied on its efficiency
Suffering a reputation crisis is like water off a duck’s back for Uber; few brands can boast the vast number of crises that Uber can. The company was blamed for creating a toxic environment for work. Amongst other things, it was also accused of not doing thorough checks of its drivers, which has been interpreted by many to have played a role in a number of sexual assault crimes committed on its passengers.
Uber is a massive global business and, despite them doing nothing to limit the amount of bad publicity they get, the reason they didn’t get hit even harder is because people have familiarity. Consumers are always willing to forgive brands if they offer a good service for a cheap price. Being competitive, quick and accessible is key in this instance.
Don’t Milk it Morrisons
Farmers have been hit hard with the increased consumer demand and growth of convenience shopping. In 2015, tensions reached breaking point between farmers and supermarkets because of the poor income farmers were receiving. As a form of protest against the pricing, farmers took to their local Morrisons supermarkets and bought all of the milk off the shelves and filmed themselves doing it. The video quickly went viral and, whilst it wasn’t the most hard-hitting protest of all time, it caught the attention of the powers that be at Morrisons.
With Morrisons being accused of being greedy, they launched a ‘Milk for farmers’ range which is more expensive than their normal range; the extra cost would go straight into farmers’ pockets. As small as this campaign is, it challenged customers to prove how charitable they are and effectively mended their frosty relationship with the farmers.
Dairy farmers buy up all the milk in Bude supermarket in protest at low prices @BBCSpotlight pic.twitter.com/qaolq56r4o
— John Danks (@johnjdanks) August 2, 2015
Branson, we’ve got a problem
Since 2014, Virgin have been trying to achieve commercial space travel but this was dealt a huge blow after a test flight went wrong and crashed. The plane crash killed one pilot and seriously injured another; the fatal crash was disastrous for not only the ambitious venture but also for Virgin’s reputation.
Richard Branson immediately flew to the scene of the crash where he tweeted an emotional reaction offering his condolences to those involved and their loved ones. Later that night he penned an emotional blog about the incident. Branson’s blog post was clever and managed to successfully impact the media’s narrative, calling the pilot brave and changing the focus of the media from Virgin to the efforts of the pilots.
Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) October 31, 2014
For every PR crisis, there is a different way of dealing with it and a plan for when a crisis hits is something that every brand should have in place. In order to effectively deal with the crisis, it is important that everyone knows their place because time is crucial and can be the difference between burying the bad press or having you reputation fall apart.