The recent backlash Garnier faced over the “Care Package” given to the IDF is a good example of how social media has the power to get customers to boycott brands that do not seem aligned to their personal values. The picture of the girl soldiers with the Garnier products on the site StandWithUs Facebook was posted on 31 July, 2014 and went viral with over 22000 views. It resulted in a call to boycott Garnier which was seen to have allied itself with the anti-Palestine stance Israel was taking bombing Gaza and the death of Palestinian civilians and children. Garnier in their press release issued on 7 August on their Facebook page stated: “Garnier USA is aware of recent activity in social media. It is very important to us that our fans know that “Garnier worldwide promotes peace and harmony and has a strict policy of not getting involved in any conflict or political matter. Garnier was astonished to discover this in social media. After investigation, the hand-out of about 500 products appeared to be part of a one-time local retailer initiative. Garnier disapproves of this initiative managed strictly at local level and is very sorry to have offended some of its fans.” Garnier has on their Facebook page at the time of writing this 105 likes for this comment and 87 shares. Bad news travels faster! Amul India is an iconic brand that has used outdoor media to convey social messages. Their most recent campaign is an interesting one with one message “Tell Aviv to Stop“. They are clearly making a stance.
What should you do as a brand? Sometimes you don’t have a choice and get drawn into situations beyond your control. Here are two tips that may help.
Stick to your Brand Values: A customer’s “expected values” from a brand/product can affect satisfaction. For every percentage change in expectations, there is a 0.1% change in satisfaction according to Anderson et al (1994). Another interesting article by Mizik and Jacobson (2003) looks at value appropriation versus value creation and of course we find stock markets react more favourably to value appropriation. This brings us to the interesting question of managing the supply chain. McDonald’s and Yum! Brands are seeing the effect in China and on their share price. As a brand you cannot distance yourself from your stakeholders who represent you. Get everyone aligned on the same page or you look hypocritical!
Have a Brand Crisis Communication Plan. We really don’t know how to predict public response or to find out the tipping point. A detailed crisis communication plan is outlined in the study “Protecting from brand burn during times of crisis: Mumbai 26/11: a case of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel“. The way the Tata Group handled a tragedy has a lot of lessons for brand owners. A sincere apology and your commitment to your values no matter what, are some things that the public looks for. For some other brand owners, managing a crisis may mean safely finding a way to divorce yourself from the brand and the negative energy that surrounds it. Malaysian airlines had a tough year for 2014 that affected the brand of Malaysia – and now a sale and rebranding efforts are on the cards.
Understanding brand values may begin with corporate values. In one of my strategy classes, one of my students commented – If Real Beauty is associated with Dove, why is Fair & Lovely (another Unilever product) emphasising I don’t look good enough? I really don’t have the answer. Maybe we need to look at the corporate values for guidance….