Brand Crisis: Immediate Communication Strategy

In 2009-2010, Toyota announced the recall of around 9 million Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla worldwide due to pedal problems stuck in car carpets, resulting in a series of accidents that were even fatal. Starting in October 2009 with the recall of 3.8 million vehicles and followed by a recall in December 2009 totaling 2.3 million vehicles. This continued until in January 2010 as many as 1.1 million vehicles were recalled and continued, without clear communication with customers from Toyota itself. Many Toyota users have been left unclear for weeks whether their vehicle is a problem or not, creating panic and confusion.

This also led to a significant drop in Toyota’s sales and market share. Not only that, Toyota also received a lot of negative news which resulted in a very bad reputation.

Not only Toyota, a number of other brands have also made a recall of their products that were considered failed. But there are only two options: either surrender to the situation while waiting for what will happen after the reputation continues to deteriorate or use a communication strategy to recover from the crisis. The second option seems more heroic, but must be carried out with a deliberate series of actions.

Defining the source of the crisis
The first thing to do is to know for sure what is the source of the problem in the crisis. In this case, what is the public’s accusation, what is the media coverage of our products must be taken into consideration.

It is important to recognize and dig up all the facts to arrive at an important conclusion on what is the basis of the problem.

In 1982, a 12 year old girl died while taking Tylenol, a common over-the-counter fever medicine in the United States. On the same day and in the next few days, several more people died, all of them after taking the Tylenol. In a swift investigation of the authorities, it was discovered that the culprit was not a Johnson & Johnson manufacturer, but someone else. Johnson & Johnson itself is responsible for recalling all of their products, which are estimated to be worth 100 million USD (about 250 million in 2020) and halting production and advertising. Although to this day the culprit is unknown, Johnson & Johnson’s actions to take quick action created a brand image they are still good.

Come Clean
If there is an error in the product that results in customer loss, then make efforts to restore trust by publicly admitting the mistake and apologizing. Of course, this action can have 2 consequences, both from a financial side as well as a legal one. Therefore, it is important to design a coping strategy.

To provide a statement, the highest management of the company should act as a spokesperson and express sympathy as well as a sense of responsibility for mistakes that harm customers. However, if it is found that the errors in the product are not entirely what the public accuses them of, then in addition to coming clean, the company can also provide an explanation to the public about what actually happened. It aims to reduce the damage caused by the crisis by providing some mitigating arguments.

One of the cases that attracted enough attention was the case of falsification of emission test results from Volkswagen. Regulators in the United States suspected that the results of emission tests differed significantly between Volkswagen’s in the US and those in Europe and started this series of investigations. From the results of investigations by US regulators, it was found that Volkswagen had regulated its emissions in such a way that the results of the emission test would give an emission test 40x less than the actual conditions. This dishonesty came at a cost to Volkswagen, they were severely punished by US regulators and they completely lost their public image.

If it turns out that the public’s accusations are not true, then the company can provide a convincing response to the contrary.

For example, in 1993 PepsiCo was falsely accused of having a syringe in its drink cans, this accusation grew until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stepped in. The crisis ended in no more than eight days with PepsiCo making a video of the canning process that did not allow foreign objects to enter the can.

Polish the hello
Then start to build an image by directing public attention to the image that is built. The company is not only fixing the mistakes that have occurred, but is also building a better product.

British Petroleum (BP) has been stigmatized as ‘Bad Petroleum’ due to the massive oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. In an effort to restore the company’s image, BP also made an advertisement depicting it as a company developing alternative energy. This is reflected in various corporate communications delivered by BP, one of which is their green logo with an organic logo, which conveys the impression that even though BP is a company engaged in the energy sector, they are a company that is responsible and very supportive of energy. alternative.

Consumer Understanding
Give understanding to customers that errors that occur are the company’s risk in producing its products. So with a commitment to repair after this error is found, it is hoped that the same error will not occur in the future.

In principle, to deal with this crisis, the very main thing to do is communication. First is why the problem arises so that customers lose trust. The second is how companies solve these problems.

By communicating, it is hoped that it will bring the public’s view that the company’s image was indeed bad because of the problem, but it is no longer happening because improvements have been made.

By managing good communication, the company can reduce the negative impact of its product image or even improve its product image stronger than before.


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