Posts Tagged ‘crisis communication’

Brand Disasters and the Imagery that Remains

May 18, 2010

When disaster strikes, it is up to the public relations professionals to fix them.  However, despite their success, images of crises are hard to forget. Here are some of those images from recent years that have stuck in the heads of the public. Some were handled exceptionally well (Maple Leaf Foods), while other were handled not so well, or not at all (Tiger Woods). So here they are, some of the most memorable corporate crises of the 21st century.

8. (2000) Firestone’s Faulty Tire Fiasco

6.3 million tires recalled and an ugly breakup between Firestone/Bridgestone and Ford Motor Company. It was never proven if the tires directly resulted in the 46 deaths associated with the tires on Ford Explorers, but most people came to their own conclusions.  Explorers are dangerous enough with good tires!
(image source

7. (2009) Free Chicken Riots

Oprah announces free Kentucky Fried Chicken coupon on her website and stores all over the US are inundated with customers. Throngs of hungry people come close to  rioting as KFC stores run out of chicken. This is the O-Factor at its greasiest.
(image source:

6. (2008) Big 3 Jet Planes

GM, Chrysler, and Ford CEOs fly to US bail-out hearing in private jets. This is what Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York said soon after the three CEOs sat down at the hearing.”It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious.” He added, “couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.” Jet-pooled? I love this guy.
(image source:

5. (2010) Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda Breaks Down Over Massive Recall

Toyota recently recalled well over six million  vehicles due to an accelerator problem. Originally, the problem was due to accelerators becoming lodged under floor mats. However, the most recent recall was due to  faulty accelerators that caused some vehicles to speed out of control reaching speeds of up to 190 mph. This is a crisis that is far from over, but Toyota’s PR have staff proved highly valuable. I can’t say the same about their stock.
(image source:

4. (2008) Maple Leaf Contaminated Meat

This is the tragic tale of one of Canada’s leading packaged meat company’s selling meat products contaminated with Listeriosis bacteria. The tainted meat killed 22 people and it was assumed, by many PR professionals, that this would be the end of Maple Leaf Foods. But low and behold they are not only still in business, they are doing better than they were before the crisis. Do you have a crisis communication plan?
(Image source: the

3. (2009) Disgusting Domino Debacle

Two Dominos employees filmed themselves doing disgusting things to food, and then delivered the food to a customer. This has to be the grossest brand crisis that I can remember, well no, there’s the…and the… let’s just say it’s gross. These two amateur film makers were not only fired, but sentenced to probation by a North Carolina judge. Even though these two can’t even find employment in the fast-food industry anymore, Dominos is still suffering the effects of this random act of brand terrorism.
(image source:

2. (2007) Jetblue Zoo Holds Humans in Captivity

During a hectic day at JFK airport, Jetblue flight number 751 bound for Cancun taxied onto the tarmac for take off. Somehow, despite all the checks and constant communication between air traffic control and the planes cockpit, the plane remained on the tarmac for nine hours. NINE HOURS full of customers! The fact that this happened and Jetblue is still in business leaves me flummoxed. Well, have you flown with Jetblue lately? Me neither.
Image source:

1. (2010) The Tiger Woods Sexcapades

This was covered by the mainstream media more than all the aforementioned crisis, and no one died, no one got sick, and no one was seriously injured. Well except maybe Tiger with his own four iron. I know what your thinking, where’s the corporate brand crisis? Well, Tiger is a brand, just ask Gillette, Tag Heuer, Gatorade, and Gillette. I left Nike out because apparently the brand is above mere mortal image associations. This was not handled poorly by Tigers PR staff, it was not handled at all. The only damage control saw was a sub-par (no I don’t mean good in golf terms) press conference, and a Nike commercial that dumbfounded us all.
(image source:

Having a crisis communication plan is crucial to survive crises such as these. And remember, no thanks to this blog, most people have short memories.