By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large
The digital world is so fast moving that each brand is trying to stay ahead of the game to catch the attention of the ever so restless consumer.
But sometimes in an effort to create some buzz, the brand creates the wrong kind of buzz. This is often referred to as a PR nightmare. This is bound to happen to any brand that is gaining traction in the market, but the way a company deals with it can have a significant impact.
You May Not Envy Chipotle, But Here’s What You Can Learn From Them
Chipotle, for example, the restaurant chain with the tag line “food with integrity” is having trouble recovering from their food safety crisis. But, the brand took the right approach and responded appropriately.
The chain was super quick to answer questions on social right after the PR scandal hit, then Steve Ells addressed the issue head on by writing an open letter admitting to fault and outlining the brand’s food safety advancements.
“But in 2015, we failed to live up to our own food safety standards, and in so doing, we let our customers down. At that time, I made a promise to all of our customers that we would elevate our food safety program,” wrote Ells in the open letter.
He also appeared on national television and repeatedly expressed similar sentiments.
Then in an effort to win customers back the chain had a series of free meal promotions. This was clever on Chipotle’s part because it created long lines at their stores again, making potential customers who were walking by think the food safety crisis had blown over.
Time will only tell if Chipotle will return on top in the fast casual world, but the chain should be applauded for their efforts to mitigate their PR nightmare.
Wendy’s Goes Rogue and It Hasn’t Completely Backfired
The quick-serve giant, Wendy’s had a more recent PR nightmare earlier this month.
The brand decided to unleash the ultimate sassy troll on social. And at first, people were praising the brand (and some still are) for its comedic responses.
While some of the tweets in response to Wendy’s haters were just the right amount of sassy, some have not been so well received.
One post in particular got a ton of backlash. The brand created a Wendy version of the pepe the Frog meme. However, the quick-serve's social team did not do their research.
This image formerly was used as a reaction meme, but was deemed as a hate symbol last September by the Anti-Defamation League after having been adopted as a white nationalist symbol.
Wendy’s evidently deleted the post after tremendous backlash from some fans, which was a smart move on their part.
After the brand went rogue on social, it sparked a debate.
Is all PR really good PR, or at least in this case? And have the way brands have been conducting themselves on social been too stuffy and not enough conversational? Or should businesses act respectful to all engagers, even if they are haters?
“Many businesses make a bigger mistake: they over-think their social media posts. At some companies I work with, every tweet and posting is subject to the owner’s (or even legal counsel’s) review. Unfortunately, this undermines the very essence of what social media is all about. Social media is about timeliness, engagement, opinions. It is snarky, funny, goofy and sometimes controversial. Mistakes will be made…and the Internet can be unforgiving,” writes Gene Marks for The Washington Post.
Was Cinnabon Wrong to Post this Tribute? Was it Appropriate to Market Off this Icon’s Death?
Before the end of last year, the world lost an incredible Icon, Carrie Fisher. The social world was then flooded with RIP posts and images in tribute to the “Star Wars” star.
Cinnabon decided to jump on the tribute bandwagon and reposted a former photo of theirs featuring Princess Leia made from cinnamon, sporting a cinnamon roll as one of her infamous buns.
The brand had previously posted the image on May 4, 2016 to celebrate “Star Wars Day.” But following Fisher’s passing, the image was tweeted again on December 27. 2016 with this message: "RIP Carrie Fisher, you'll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”
However, the brand was hit was a storm of responses where users called the tweet “tacky” and “distasteful.” Some fans felt that it was in poor taste to market off of her death.
But others were quick to defend the brand saying it was cute and Fisher would have approved.
Regardless, the chain decided to remove the post and then issued an apology on Twitter.
@Cinnabon would bet real money that Carrie would have laughed at the tweet. It was sweet and clever. Wish you hadn't deleted the tribute. ️— Brian Scully (@brianscully) December 28, 2016
Instead of being applauded for this, Cinnabon received thousands in response to the apology, whereas many criticized the brand for not holding its ground and keeping the image up.
So in this case, was it the right move to take it down? Should brands never offer tribute to deaths or tragic events in an effort to avoid being potentially offensive?
Bud light did an ad in tribute to 9/11. Crocs paid tribute to David Bowie’s death with an image of crocs with Bowie’s Aladdin Sane flash logo on them. Another example is when Cheerios posted an image saying “Rest in Peace” after Prince passed away.
Were these all major mistakes? We want to hear what YOU think. Comment below.