From tainted food ingredients to violating environmental norms, large firms across the world have long faced challenges to their reputation. Once hit, most companies have struggled to win back the market share and replenish the brand value. But some brands have made a fantastic comeback, on the back of poor consumer memory, smart PR and compelling campaigns that win your trust. With Nestle’s Maggi noodles preparing for a recovery, we look at some smart brand comebacks over the years:
1. Reports of high level of pesticides found in cola maker Pepsi’s drinks in the early 2000s caused a massive backlash for all bottled beverage makers. However, months after a non-government report alleged high levels of pesticides, PepsiCo’s then India chief executive officer Rajeev Bakshi appeared on a TV campaign where he was shown reassuring a worried consumer.
2. In 2003, chocolate maker Cadbury India Ltd (now Mondelez India Foods Pvt. Ltd) got its brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan to launch a new campaign and re-launched its brand of chocolates with better packaging, three months after packs of the chocolate brand were found infested with worms. The campaign showed the veteran actor take a tour of the Cadbury factory, highlighting the apparent safety measures introduced by the chocolate maker. Mondelez is the largest chocolate brand in the country.
3. Last year, the country’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart encountered several glitches in its mega annual sale, the Big Billion Day. Orders were cancelled or unaccounted for and many deliveries never reached the buyers. Thousands of disgruntled customers took to the social media to vent their frustration. In an emailed apology, the company’s promoters Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal responded the following day, “Yesterday was a big day for us. And we really wanted it to be a great day for you. But at the end of the day, we know your experience was less than pleasant. We did not live up to the promises we made and for that we are really and truly sorry.”
This year, the company ensured that customers would face fewer technical issues while placing orders. In a light-hearted tweet, Sachin Bansal was seen delivering goods himself for a day to ensure all products were delivered well in time.
4. In 2010, America’s favourite home-grown apparel retailer Gap undertook an expensive rebranding exercise that involved a new logo for the brand. Following a major outlash on social media—Twitter and Facebook—criticizing the decision, the brand had to rescind its decision and restore the original logo. In response to global criticism, Gap used its Facebook page to communicate its decision. “We’ve been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back. So we’ve made the decision to do just that—we will bring it back across all channels,” the retailer said.
5. In a recent bid to boost business, one of the world’s largest fast-food chains Yum! Brands spun off its China business after months of food scandals that had rattled sales at Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC. In 2014, Yum! was found to be selling expired meat products at KFC outlets in China. The company took action and dismissed its supplier, Shanghai Husi, even though sales in China never totally recovered. The fast-food company even launched extensive marketing campaign to reassure consumers about food safety. It recently split the business to expand the market.
6. In another food-related fiasco, a horse-meat scandal rocked the UK in 2013, when samples of canned or packaged foods claiming to be beef products were found to contain bits of horse meat. The controversy involving retailers such as Tesco, Asda and Aldi, exposed a wide gap in quality-assurance within the food-supply chain. The meat, originating from vendors and their factories found its way to supermarket shelves and restaurants. Arrests were made following a nationwide protest against large meat exporters. It eventually spread to multiple cities in the European Union, prompting stricter labelling norms. As an aftermath, top retailers stopped sourcing packaged meat from the suspected guilty vendors.
Although most companies have succeeded with their clean-up operations, some still remain embroiled in controversy. The ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal saw the company’s chief Martin Winterkorn step down, amid a management overhaul. The massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 impacted marine life in the area, and the episode was labeled as the “worst environment disaster” by the global media. The company paid up $20 billion in compensation.