Crisis Marketing

No CEO or a Marketing director would want to experience a situation when their business gets into a deep trouble due to mounting customer complaints, product failures, legal issues or safety concerns. It is a do or die situation for them to resurrect the image of the brand or product and to resort to averting a major disaster that would question the very survival of the business.

Crisis Marketing is all about what a CEO should do before a crisis, during the crisis and after the crisis. Many businesses do not plan for such an event ( actually there is no need for a plan) but the marketing experts always advocate why averting a crisis needs to be built-in their strategy and communications to customers or stake holders. The crisis could happen in any phase of the business – start-up, growth or stabilisation.

Before a crisis

In the first place, It is the responsibility of every leader of the company to know all about their company, products, the market and the competition through awareness and attitude research.

  • A product should be positioned to the customers not by tall claims that it is the best and the biggest but by establishing the value it could offer to its customers in terms of benefits of the product or service. The customers must realise what’s in it for them to buy that product or service. Advertising or personal communication need to convey the benefits.
  • Paying attention to customer queries/ complaints and timely answering them creates the confidence about the company, its people and the product. A dissatisfied customer has the potential to create a feeling that the company doesn’t care for its customers and that negative feeling gets spread across the market to reach many customers through word of mouth, product reviews or ratings. Customer service team should listen to the voices of the consuming market, internal staff, distributors, dealers, regulators and the trade journals or media that cover the industry.
  • The sales materials, brochures, reports and newspaper clippings about the product must be used well to communicate to the customers and to keep the product or the service offering always on the top of the minds of customers because those would certainly help in the event of a crisis.
  • A problem always comes up un-announced and it is the responsibility of customer facing team to smell it through customer interactions, feedback or random checks.
  • Public relations through publications of articles and sponsoring a high profile event – a sports,cultural or art festival and seminars increase the good will of the customer and the buying groups.
  • Building trust is of utmost importance and the rhetoric claims or ads should not exceed credibility.

During a crisis

A crisis has hit the company and how well it is mitigated to reduce the impact of its aftermath consequences helps to keep the product and the business alive.

  • A single spokes-person must front end the team to represent the company’s position and to issue updates. CEO or Marketing Director or the company’s Lawyer must refrain from doing this act. The messaging is important and no flamboyance is needed by that spokesperson to clarify the stand of the company.
  • As a primary rule of crisis management, get the company’s side of the story out first to the customers and stake holders before someone does it from the media or competition. In this way, the narrative of the story is set and the tone will amplify the openness and candour.
  • Keeping a statement or a hand-out ready rather than being extempore, helps to avert confrontation with the audience. “Off the records” statements have the danger of mis-quoting or distorting by the critics.
  • In a crisis, more than a product it is the image of the company or brand that is likely to get a beating and hence all the good-will from the industry peers or forums should be used to minimise the impact of the crisis. Brief statistical data about the positive information need to be offered.
  • Employees may turn out to be the epicenter of the crisis and hence it is important that they are made aware of what is happening and how the crisis needs to be addressed and confidence of the customers restored. The ability of the business to survive the crisis depends on the employees’ commitment and support. Keeping them in the know of things that led to the crisis and management’s effort in mitigating its fall-outs would help them to continue to be loyal to the company.

After the crisis

It is business- as-usual like it was ‘before the crisis’ with all the do’s getting repeated.

  • The company is in a better position after having learnt the root causes of the crisis and putting in place all the necessary steps to build a better product, to know more about the customers and their expectations.
  • Marketing communications and advertising campaigns should reflect what the company thinks of its customers and what the customers think of the company. Honesty in what you say and do pays in the long run and it is an effective ingredient for success.

Crisis marketing requires a positive attitude to succeed when things go wrong. Cover ups of mistakes gets the company deeper into the mess and it becomes impossible to recover. We have seen businesses that are banished from the market and they are classic examples of crisis management taking a back seat with leaders looking for causes that created the crisis rather than preparing them to handle it and succeed. In a challenging business environment, it is absolutely important that one must know how to foresee crises and avoid them. If it had happened once, it should not repeat again when the lessons were well learnt.

Reference: Crisis Marketing: When bad things happen to good companies by Joe Marconi.

Published by sivakumargopal

Certified Corporate Director || Certified Independent Director || Independent Consultant Management Consulting- Strategy & Operations || Advisor || Career Coach & Mentor || ERP, Digital Consulting || Management professional of 38 years of experience in multiple areas – IT / ERP SAP Practice & Consulting, Sales, Marketing, Services, Business Development, Customer Relations Management, Program & Delivery Management, People Management, Competency Management,Software Service Delivery.

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