Monday, November 23, 2015

Radical Thoughts - Managing a marketing faux pas || Mohammed Fahd || IIM Shillong || August 2015 edition


Managing a marketing faux pas


Marketing blunders have existed ever since marketing has been around, after all to err is human. Therefore, try as a company might to steer clear of all marketing goof-ups, a marketing manager is likely to come across a marketing gaffe over the course of their career. Every year, dozens of companies make certain marketing mistakes. Many popular examples continue to be a major blot in the glorious histories of corporate giants one of which happens to be the Ford Pinto, a car model whose very name means a tiny penis in Portuguese. Additionally, following a series of explosions due to rear end collisions, a memo was leaked from a Ford executive claiming that it would be cheaper to pay reparations to injured drivers rather than recalling the vehicles, an incident that seriously damaged Ford’s customer friendly image. 


Coca Cola is another giant who has garnered infamy at a few occasions due to poorly planned marketing tactics however in their particular case, Coke has repeated their blunders not just once but thrice. In 1985 Coke launched a sweeter variant in an attempt to win back younger drinkers switching to Pepsi however, the move backfired when the lovers of the original formula protested leading to a massive boycott & forcing the company to reintroduce their original formula as Coke Classic. Coke has also displayed an abject neglect for cultural nuances as displayed by their debacles in Dubai & China. 

The recent Adidas debacle following their sexist Manchester United female jerseys is
another glaring example of a giant showing that no one is immune to such slip-ups & therefore it is important that people understand how to handle such a faux pas. In order to do handle such an event a company needs to answer 3 important questions: Will the mistake cause significant loss in revenue now & in the future? Will it tarnish the company’s image? Will it offend consumers? If the answer to all 3 questions is a yes, then the company needs to take immediate evasive steps. 

In the infamous words of John C. Maxwell, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, & strong enough to correct them.” In order to accomplish these objectives a company needs to take certain steps. First of all, the company needs to act promptly & go into damage control mode. The longer the issue is allowed to linger, the more damage will be done. Secondly, if the issue has offended a community it is highly advisable to issue an apology. Thirdly, in order to control the ensuing chaos the company needs some good PR going their way & to do that they need to offer their consumers an incentive to forgive & forget. The incentive can be anything as long as it can help reduce or takeaway the spotlight from the gaffe. Lastly, the company needs to takes steps to ensure that such an event does not take place again & promote those steps publicly. 

Most often the mix-up is a result of multiple mistakes however the company needs to highlight the most glaring errors & tackle those to re-assure the consumer that their concerns are being taken care of. Internally, the company can create a system to detect patterns of mistakes early & detect the data while taking steps to ensure that all elements involved in the previous mix-up are taken care of. Large corporations know that at the end of the day, avoiding such situations over a number of decades is not possible however certain best practices have emerged over time & if carefully followed they can ensure that such situations need not result in significant loss of revenue & a bad lasting image in the minds of the consumers.

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