Thought Leadership

How to Survive a Brand Image Disaster

June 18, 2019
How to Survive a Brand Image Disaster

Social media can be a double-edged sword for brands. For all the authenticity, edginess and emotion that make for successful social media, it can also bring with it an element of risk. Add in basic human error, real-time reactions and the mob mentality that pervades the digital domain, and your brand can quickly become a trending topic for all the wrong reasons.

So, if the worst happens, how do you survive a brand image disaster? Inspired brand management based on insightful market research helps.

A tale of two batteries

The social media age has delivered not one, but two scare stories involving exploding batteries.

  • Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7
  • Multiple manufacturers that produced electric hoverboards

Both involved the recall of millions of products containing faulty lithium-ion batteries, and both were caught in a viral and prolonged social media disaster that threatened to kill the brands that were associated with them.

While hoverboard manufacturers suffered irreparable damage as the saga rapidly drained goodwill among customers, Samsung successfully emerged with its brand intact.

In fact, Samsung’s brand value has steadily risen since the debacle, an amazing feat considering the company was forced to recall millions of devices while the brand was raked through the mud in the press, on social media and during cabin crews’ preflight safety announcements.

How did Samsung do it?

What we can learn from Samsung

One of the most valuable lessons to learn when it comes to brand management is that burying your head in the sand is simply not an option. Instead, Samsung stood up and took accountability, working rapidly to not only inform the public of the issue but recall any potential faulty devices.

“We knew we couldn’t afford the luxury of a fetal position and just lie there, so the first thing that we did to make things right was to take accountability,” Pio Schunker, senior vice president of integrated marketing communications at Samsung Mobile Communication, told the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing Conference in 2017. “For Samsung, it wasn’t just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.” (Business Insider, 2017)

Samsung spent more than $5 billion on what was one of the biggest product recalls in history, but importantly, the company also worked tirelessly to identify the problem and communicate with its customers. The South Korean tech giant even set up what were described as “war rooms” across the globe, places where agencies and in-house teams worked around the clock to monitor social media and traditional press and address concerns in real time. This kind of communication is key, enabling the company to alleviate the concerns of its customers and inform them about recalls and replacements.

Importantly, the company was also quick to move on from the disaster. While many companies would have stepped back and slowed the pace of product releases, Samsung ramped things up. It didn’t shy away but instead used the brand learnings it’d gathered from the brand image disaster to aggressively market its next range of devices.

The result was to return consumer trust to where it’d been before the incident, turning the page on the kind of PR nightmare that would sink most brands.

In short, Samsung provided a case study on how brands should respond in the wake of a social media disaster. Our Technology team conducted a self-funded tech market research study that provides key learnings on how to measure and mitigate the damage caused by unflattering social media coverage.

Click below to read our white paper on how negative press really impacts brands.

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Madison Cuneo, Senior Analyst
Madison Cuneo
Senior Analyst, Technology and Telecom

Madison Cuneo is a former senior analyst in the Technology and Telecommunications divisions of Escalent.