Corporate confessions may work or fail. Brands have, however, realised that it is better to say ‘sorry’ immediately.
Wells Fargo, Uber and Facebook’s apologies hit the headlines, recently. These apologies seemed to come across like a whiff of fresh air but saying sorry has a long history.
In 1982, Tylenol apologised for something which was not their fault directly. Tampered capsules were consumed by seven consumers who died because the pills had been laced with cyanide. The tampering, said Johnson & Johnson’s medical director Thomas N Gates addressing viewers on major TV networks, “damages all of us - you the American public, because you have made Tylenol a trusted part of your healthcare, and we who make Tylenol because we’ve worked hard to earn that trust. We will work even harder to keep it.” Six months later, Tylenol had recovered lost ground.
Here are five more confessionals that caught the eye over the years:
Samsung: The case of overheating batteries that burst into fire became too hot for the company. The brand came up with full page apologies in three of America’s biggest newspapers. It helped.
JC Penney: Six years ago, the store made some changes to bring in more customers. Instead, the lost 33 per cent of their customers. The brand went to the customers with a plea to “Please come back...” They did.
BP: The 2010 oil spill following deep sea rig Deepwater Horizon’s explosion claimed CEO Tony Hayward’s job at BP as the American public did not accept his televised apology and wanted him to quit.
Coca-Cola: In 1985, Coca-Cola announced that it had changed its century-old secret formula to come up with a sweeter soft drink. Americans hated it and rushed to shops to stock on the old version of Coke. Even Pepsi scoffed its rival. Seventy seven days later, Coke had to eat crow and revert to the old formula. Then president Donald R Keough apologised and even read out angry customers’ letters on TV.