The issue of celebrity endorsements is taking a new turn with consumers demanding strict action against those who endorse brands that do not deliver the promised value. With the rise of the social media platforms, brands across categories are realising the importance of having a crisis management strategy in place, especially when consumers take to the social media to dent a brands image.
Over the last weekend, cricketer MS Dhoni was forced to quit as the brand ambassador of Amrapali group, after people started protesting on Twitter regarding the delay in completion of its housing project. He was associated with the brand for almost six years, but last week, the # Amrapalimisusedhoni hashtag went viral on social media and forced the cricketer to quit being the brand ambassador of the group which has not been able to deliver.
Last month Havells was forced to withdraw their ‘anti-reservation’ creative because of social media backlash. The ad has been criticised on the grounds of being ‘castiest’ which shows a girl from today’s age rejecting the need for any ‘ladder’ in order to move ahead in life. Post the Twitter furore; the company issued a statement --- “a sequence in our recent fan campaign of ‘Hawa Badlegi’ seems to have hurt the sentiments of some viewers. Havells is a responsible brand and it never intends to hurt anybody’s sentiment. The intention of the company has always been in the interest of people; hence we are withdrawing this ad sequence immediately.”
In March this year, Kalyan Jewellers roped in Sonam Kapoor as the face of the brand. Kapoor has replaced actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who was the ambassador of Kalyan Jewellers for more than three years. Last year, the brand courted controversy, when one of their ads, featuring Aishwarya ‘representing aristocracy in the bygone era’ along with an underage child holding an umbrella over her head, received a lot of backlash on social media. The print ad had to be withdrawn as it was under fire for depicting child labour.
Strategy to minimise crisis effect:
We spoke to some social media and brand experts to understand what could be the best strategy for brands to adopt in such crisis situations in future.
Commenting on this, Rajiv Dingra, Founder & CEO, WATConsult said, “In 2015, we launched our social media command center for real time social monitoring and social crisis management called Social CRM247. Here we track brands 24x7 and keep an eye on all the conversations happening around our clients. Today is has become a necessity to track and respond on an immediate basis. Therefore, investing in a command centre becomes very crucial. If such crisis is not handled properly, then the entire brand gets tainted. For example, the market cap which Maggi lost because of the crisis could have been averted to even a slightest extent, if they were prompt on social media.”
The rule on social media is to douse the fire immediately before it spreads too fast.Today it has the power to make or break a brand, if not handled properly. Citing a global example from last year would be KFC’s images of ‘deep-fried rat’ circulating on social media. The company after a gap of 10 days informed that it was not a rat, but a piece of chicken. The sales of the company dipped after this negative publicity.
Last year, when the Maggi crisis happened and the product got banned because it was found unsafe for consumption in India, the brand received a lot of flak for its ‘dismissive’ approach and ‘incompetency’ in handling the crisis situation. Things flared up and went beyond control because there was no immediate crisis management strategy in hand. Even though Maggi came out with their ‘we miss you too’ digital ads few months later, but by then the damage was already done.
There are however, brands which have dealt with their crisis period well on social media. HUL responded promptly to a rap video ‘Kodaikanal Won’t which went viral, a song written over the mercury poisoning in the Tamil Nadu city of Kodaikanal. This year, Lipton was at the receiving end of a controversy after social media was abuzz about worms being found in Lipton tea bags. The company was however, quick enough to refute the claims and they posted a video on Twitter and Facebook to counter the allegations. On social media since everything is real time, the initial response from the brand needs to be quick as it helps the controversy to die down fast.
Sanjay Shetty, Sr.Vice President- Brand Platforms, Asymmetrique highlights, “In today’s age and day, every brand should have three things in place. A proper social media policy- which agencies can refer to, like every organisation has certain dos and don’ts, but until and unless these things are outlined, it gets difficult to manage online activities. Secondly, there should be a crisis management policy in place. It is a very simple step; in a crisis, one should not lead the press and detractors, but infact lead the situation. Thirdly, online reputation management is very critical. It is equally important to have a set of influencers and brand advocates, who can speak positively about your brand. Investment needs to be done in this space, but sadly, brands are waking up late, mostly after the crisis.”
Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultsfurther added, “Brands should always try the honest approach and be transparent, this is the preventive method. However, if something goes wrong, then take the curative step, accept the mistake and take a corrective action. Finally, at any cost avoid taking an unnecessary defensive and argumentative approach. The reason being, if the winds of social media are with you, then you can benefit a lot, however, if they are against you, then it can become a major problem.”
Anshul Sushil, CEO &co-founder, Boring Brands cites, “Social media has reached a new level in India and brands are turning more human because of it. They need to experiment and actually create a brand and not only invest in getting ambassadors on board. Create popular properties like the Liril girl or the Airtel 4G girl, which can help in brand recall. Today brands are not always looking to create big campaigns, so the strategy should be simple. Take an actor, do an online campaign and get over with it. Whatever that actor does after that, will not damage the reputation of your brand, because he/she is no longer associated with your brand.”