How to Lose Control of your Brand (the Bonsoy Recall)

by Tim M on April 28, 2010

Recently, I wrote about how not to manage PR (this related to the Bonsoy recall).

As a continuation of that theme, I want to illustrate how easy it is to lose control of your brand/identity in cyberspace when people are angry about something you’ve done, particularly when there is an information vacuum. The market does not like a vacuum and in the absence of any credible, human contact, people always assume the worst (always). Jeff Jarvis gives a great example in his book What Would Google Do when discussing how bad Dell used to be in this regard.

As background, you can read about the Bonsoy recall here. Bonsoy is a soy milk product marketed and distributed by Spiral Foods predominantly in Australia, and in smaller numbers elsewhere.

Recently it became clear their product was making people sick through elevated levels of iodine – they added a seaweed extract to their soy milk. The whole recall has been, in many people’s eyes, an unmitigated disaster, both socially and from a marketing viewpoint.

The PR communiques from the company and/or their media representatives have been, how shall I say, pretty average in terms of sympathetic tone (more on that here).

Without going too much further into it, I want to show you some stats from that site, as they relate to inbound site traffic from keywords in Google search. You can see there are people coming to the site and staying a long time, and in many cases going pretty deep into the site (number of pages per visit). There are a fair few searches related to legal action.

You can also see a few of the keywords have a 0% bounce rate.

Pretty frightening stuff.

So, what should Spiral do? Apologise. Reach out to the stricken. Pay compensation. There’s no grey here. Their product made people sick – really sick in some cases – so they need to help the healing process.

And what’s the broader lesson here? Don’t create an information vacuum. Don’t forget there are real people reading at the other end.

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