During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, there was pressure from various quarters on the 10 global sponsors to denounce the anti-gay propaganda law enacted by Russia. There were mass protests in the United States and United Kingdom. Trucks sponsored by All Out,- a gay rights group- drove around the Coca Cola headquarters in Atlanta with signs probing the company to rise against Russias legislation. The amount of money on the line and the focus of the world on them put the sponsors in an awkward position (Dezenhall, 2014).
It is unquestionable that the Olympics is a global event. Companies like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, General Electric, and McDonalds had injected $100 million over four years for the Olympics with a view to improving their images globally (Markedonov, 2014). Moreover, the Olympic spirit emphasizes global harmony and overcoming differences. Given the economic conditions in the 21st century world, multinational companies cannot ignore the values of other parts of the world that are growing in power and economic strength, and maintain the Western values. Despite many Americans and Western Europeans finding the Russian legislation unfair, surveys show homosexuality is widely rejected in many parts of Asia, Russia, predominantly Muslim nations, and Africa. The sponsors who are mainly based in the United States felt the pressure from their home country to make decisions affecting their international market. The situation was complex requiring companies to thread the needle. The balance was to gain promotional potential of the games, be inclusive to customers of different ideologies and remain true to corporate culture and values (Lenskyj, 2014).
The companies responded by drafting carefully crafted statements that do not outright condemn the Russian legislation, but clearly express their intolerance of discrimination. For instance, McDonalds stated their support of the Olympic spirit and support of the International Olympic Committees belief in inclusiveness in sport, a policy that applies to spectators, media and participants (Ferrara, LaMeau, & Gale (Firm), 2012). The statements quietened the frenzy enough for the Olympic Games to go through successfully. The PR groups at the 2014 Olympics sponsors managed to see beyond the self-reference criterion and make decisions that managed to quell the turmoil. The key to solving such a situation is the consideration of cultures and values that apply to the regional customer base.
Apple customers were in apprehension waiting for the new iPhone in September 2012 when the phones went on sale. However, to their disappointment, there was no Google Maps. Apple had substituted Google Maps with its own app. The trouble was, there was a lot missing in the new maps. Cities were missing and users could be directed to a street that did not lead anywhere. A new term, Mapplegate was coined (Geis, 2015). Consumers were concerned and the matter was raised on social media, in Apple stores, in the news, and on tech forums. Apples maps were full of errors and neglected including public transportation mapping.
A singular vital factor that influenced Apples decision to let go of Google Maps is Apple required turn by turn directions on the maps. Google did not want to give up its secrets to Apple since it gave them a competitive edge. Apple made the decision to include turn by turn directions on its iOS map apps was based on customers requests (Johnson, Johnson, & Bloomberg News (Firm), 2012). Apples handling of the transition is however debatable.Apples programming prowess may be in doubt with respect to the shift to Apple Maps, however, their roadmap on how to handle a crisis was on point. The handling of the situation was superb despite letting the controversy brew for a few days.
Opinion stating that there was a chance the matter with Google could have been worked out exists, but only if Apple was ready to relinquish some control of iOS (Geis, 2015). However, that was unlikely to happen. The script ran as it does when an offshore oil spill occurs. The public was honoured by an open letter from the CEO, a tradition in disaster management, honoured by time.
CEO Tim Cook personally offered an apology. He was honest in his admission of the failure of Apple Maps and advised users to download competitors products which were availed on the app store. Cook promised improvements were in the pipeline too. The sincere apology from Apple CEO mitigated what would have been a dent in Apples reputation at the time.
Toyota's 2010 Recall Fiasco
Toyota was forced to recall over 8 million vehicles due to the manifestation of safety defects. Among the defects, the cars accelerator could jam; this led to multiple fatal accidents on the roads with the Toyota cars. Toyota was at first unable to diagnose the problem. However, PR teams were mobilised to reduce the media backlash. Senior management was silent during the early stages of the saga, this skewed public opinion of the company (Hill, 2014).
Toyota responded slowly with disastrous results. However, the debacle was a wakeup call for the company which turned the tables in the months after the scandal. Despite the initial mistakes, Toyota was able to recover lost ground. Toyota was quick to reward its customers by extending warranties and hyped marketing. The efforts added clout to their previous reputation. Toyotas adverts in the following months were more considerate and expressed the companys desire to remedy the situation. The executives of Toyota were more active in the frontline, speaking to the press and actively participating in participations. Toyota showed resiliency and with the background of its past positive performance built over decades, was soon back on track.
Toyota focused its marketing on safety and its tried and tested track record. Toyota demonstrated that this disaster which included its initial poor handling of the situation was a temporary streak of ill luck. The plan was a success and Toyota was spared by NASA of the blame for most of the accidents. Consequently, according to WPP, Toyotas equity leapt this year to 11%.
On July 7, 1977, a boycott against Swiss based Nestle Corporation was launched in the United States. The campaign spread through the United States and spilled into Europe in the early 1980s. The campaign was triggered by Nestles "aggressive marketing" of substitutes for breast milk. The campaign was intensive especially in less developed countries. The boycotts organizers promoted the nutrition of new-borns via natural breast milk, arguing that the substitute products posed a health risk to babies health.
Nestles marketing strategy came to the limelight in 1973 when an article was printed in the New Internationalist magazine and in War On Wants booklet The Baby Killer in 1974. Nestle responded by suing the publisher of a German Third World Action Group for libel. After a two year trial, Nestle won the lawsuit and was judged not responsible for the death of infants with regard to criminal law. TIME magazine defined the judgement as a moral victory for the defendants (Kellner, 2003).
The boycott has been renewed and cancelled historically based on reviews on the business practices. As of the year 2013, the boycott is managed by the International Nestle Boycott Committee, whose secretariat is the UK group Baby Milk Action. To date, some institutions (universities, colleges, and schools) do not allow sale of Nestle products on shops and vending machines in their premises.
McDonalds #McDstories Twitter Campaign
McDonald's Twitter campaign aimed at getting followers to tweet their special #McDStories terribly backfired. The problem arose when Twitter users began to tweety about the negative experiences they had at McDonalds. Users on Twitter used the hashtag for horror stories like "Fingernail in my BigMac" or how they ended up in hospital with food poisoning after eating at McDonalds, how McDonalds turned them into vegetarians and how they should have sued McDonalds. There was no way McDonalds could remedy the situation to stop the tweets. All the stories were readily available whenever one clicked on the hash tag that was trending globally on Twitter.
McDonald's director of social media put out a statement acknowledging the #mcdstories did not go as planned earlier. The earlier hash tag (#meetthefarmers) was entirely successful for a significant part of the day and raised awareness on the Supplier Stories campaign. #mcdstories did not materialize as anticipated. #mcdstories was quickly pulled down after less than two hours of promotion.
An hour after withdrawing the #McDStories, the conversations about it dropped from over a thousand to a few dozen. However, the internet does not forget and the hash tag was spurred into life again. McDonalds admits they have a contingency plan in their social media strategy. However, they admit they got off lucky because the uproar could have been worse.
Umbro and Zyklon
Umbro was forced to reconsider the name for one of its trainers following revelations that the name they gave the line was similar to the gas used by Nazis to murder prisoners in concentration camps (May, 2013). Zyklon was met with outrage from many quarters, especially Jewish groups. The action prompted Umbro to apologize for the mistake and the inconvenience caused. During Hitlers regime, Zyklon B crystals were used in the murder of millions of Jews across Europe.
Umbro, who also manufacture the England national team football kit, apologized for the error and ascertained that it was purely accidental, and not suggestive in any way. International Human rights organizations called it an insult to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Critics did not believe that given the consideration manufacturers such as Umbro take into naming products; the reference could be purely coincidental (McCusker, 2006).
Umbro on the other hand maintained the reference was purely coincidental. Despite their assertion, a quick search of the word Zyklon on the internet would have brought up references to the Holocaust (McCusker, 2006). Umbros PR regret the offence the name caused to some people in a company statement. In addition, Umbro state that the person whon named the shoes was ignorant of the meaning of the word. In my opinion, the excuses provided by Umbro are weak.
Dezenhall, E. (2014). Glass jaw: A manifesto for defending fragile reputations in an age of instant scandal.
Ferrara, M. H., LaMeau, M. P., & Gale (Firm). (2012). Corporate disasters: What went wrong and why. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning.
Geis, G. T. (2015). Semi-organic growth + website: Tactics and strategies behind Google's success.
Hill, C. W. (2014). International business: Competing in the global marketplace.
Johnson, A., Johnson, C., & Bloomberg News (Firm). (2012). iPhone map wars: Google wins, Apple loses? New York: Bloomberg.
Kellner, D. (2003). Media spectacle. London: Routledge.
Lenskyj, H. (2014). Sexual diversity and the Sochi 2014 Olympics: No more rainbows.
Markedonov, S. (2014). The 2014 Sochi Olympics: A Patchwork of Challenges. Lanham: Center for Strategic & International Studies.
May, S. (2013). Case studies in organizational communication: Ethical perspectives and practices. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
McCusker, G. (2006). Public relations disasters: Talespin--inside stories and lessons learnt. London: Kogan Page.
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