Bridgid Nzekwu
Bridgid Nzekwu 14 April 2016

Mars Chocolate Bar Recall – How to Limit Reputational Damage

Limiting damage to your brand's reputation...

Mars is facing one of its worst case scenarios – a contaminated product which may harm customers.  The company issued a worldwide recall of Mars, Snickers and Milky Way bars, after a customer found a piece of plastic inside a Snickers.  Inevitably this is a big story for the media in terms of reach (everyone who loves chocolate), scale (worldwide) and implications (will people/children stop eating the chocolate bars, will Mars see big losses in sales, the future of the brand/company).

It’s a classic media training scenario which I’ve used over the years to train spokespeople, press officers and communications teams.  With global sales of £24bn, much is at stake for this family-owned company.  Consumers put enormous trust in brands like Mars, so when a crisis of this magnitude hits, acting quickly to limit the reputational damage is essential.  Within hours of the story breaking, one Twitter user in Germany asked the question “#mars ist das neue #vw?” (“Is #mars the new #vw?”).  The two cases are very different.  VW’s recent recall of millions of diesel cars happened after dishonesty and fraud involving emissions.  The cover up, which spanned years, has done serious, lasting  damage to its reputation, which some observers believe may never fully recover.  Mars, on the other hand, have made a good start by issuing a voluntary product recall and are likely to have already limited long-term damage by acting openly and honestly.

Even so, it’s still early days in this chocolate bar crisis.  Several risks remain, not least the fact that the company has now revised its recall.  Initially Mars stated that 55 countries were affected but now admit they don’t actually know how many countries are involved and have therefore upgraded the recall to “global”.  Mars have made it clear they believe the piece of red plastic found in a Snickers was an “isolated” one and decided to withdraw all products manufactured at the same time in the same plant in the Netherlands as a precaution.  That changes the story, the implications and the media coverage hugely if more if more pieces of plastic are found.  The Guardian reported yesterday that a spokesperson from Mars had claimed that Britain was “hardly impacted” by the issue and the recall “related only to fun-size packs.”  If that’s true, then it may well be children who are at risk of swallowing a piece of plastic.  Were that to happen, consumer trust in the Mars brand would inevitably take an even bigger, and perhaps more enduring, hit.

So what’s the best way to deal with a crisis such as the Mars product recall?  Every organisation which sells any kind of product to general public should remember the ABC of handling a crisis:

Act quickly

Often organisations struggle to respond and quickly become overwhelmed because they have no strategy in place.  Every press office should have a rapid response plan and a crisis response team. Have your messages and your spokespeople ready for action, so you can get ahead of the story via press statements, interviews and social media. Put out a holding statement as quickly as possible and give the media regular updates.

Be available/visible

Get your spokespeople out there, putting your side of the story in print, on radio and TV.  You’ll want to reassure customers to retain their trust and to protect your reputation, not to mention the bottom line.  In a media storm, the people who are the face of your organisation are your best asset.  Getting your messages across and being able to project confidence, reassurance, credibility and empathy in a crisis are must-have skills which can be learned with quality media training

Communicate clearly

Have clear, concise, consistent messages.  These should include expressing concern/apology, what action you are taking and, lastly, giving perspective.  This way you can start to influence your media coverage and perhaps even the kind of headlines that will appear in the coming weeks and months.

Bridgid Nzekwu is Head of Media Training at TNR, part of the Press Association

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
4 Important Digital Marketing Channels You Should Know About

4 Important Digital Marketing Channels You Should Know About

It goes without saying that a company can't do without digital marketing in today's world.

Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 5 November 2014
Read more
Google Analytics in Only Three Numbers

Google Analytics in Only Three Numbers

Financial advisors and other professionals can decipher a lot of information from Google Analytics with three simple categories.

Marina Howell
Marina Howell 17 October 2016
Read more
How to Optimize Your Confirmation Email Design and Make It Bring You More Sales

How to Optimize Your Confirmation Email Design and Make It Bring You More Sales

Email marketing is not just about newsletters! Transactional and confirmation emails shouldn’t be neglected when it comes to design and content. An exceptional confirmation email can help you nail another purchase in minutes.

Roland Pokornyik
Roland Pokornyik 17 October 2016
Read more
Get a Complete View of Your Customer Journey in 5 Easy Steps

Get a Complete View of Your Customer Journey in 5 Easy Steps

Here's how you can get a complete view of your customer journey so that your email campaigns continue to win new customers.

Sophia Skinbjerg
Sophia Skinbjerg 18 October 2016
Read more
Omnichannel Retail: Personalizing The Customer Journey Across Channels

Omnichannel Retail: Personalizing The Customer Journey Across Channels

The reality for retailers today is that to be successful, omnichannel strategies are no longer an option but a necessity to stay competitive. Consumers want to engage with brands on social media, in a physical store, on an ecommerce site, through a mobile app, via email or through a phone call.

Larisa Bedgood
Larisa Bedgood 18 October 2016
Read more