News | 15/08/2017

A lesson in crisis management: the best examples of what not to do

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

Success and failure can simply come down to who you know. Choosing the right brands to partner with is crucial, if you’re going to make the most of an affiliation or sponsorship. That’s where Nectar got into a spot of bother this week.

If you’ve been keeping a beady eye on social media (like we always are), you might have noticed a fallout of epic proportions after Nectar announced their partnership with the Daily Mail.

It appears Nectar’s audience research may have let them down – whilst they say they had evidence that a number of their cardholders were also Mail readers, the number of strong complaints that the partnership attracted on social media would suggest that that evidence was either flawed, or one-sided. There may well be a number of Nectar cardholders who read the Daily Mail, but there appear to be an at least equally large number who not only do not, but are severely opposed to the newspaper and its stance on particular issues. A number of Nectar customers contacted the brand to say they would be withdrawing their accounts altogether.

To further aggravate the situation, their apologies on both Twitter and Facebook appeared to be cut and pasted, one after another, rather than typed-out, considered responses. After social media users commented on this tactic, these responses were then seen to be being rapidly deleted to make amends. This is not how to placate angry social media users, in case you were wondering.

After poor old Sainsbury’s got dragged into the fray, we got to thinking; how can brands stop digging themselves a hole when a crisis hits?

  • Listen and be responsive – take on board the comments of each individual customer, and reply directly and personally to them, responding as soon as possible.
  • Be transparent – apologise and explain what went wrong; no one likes a brand deleting the negative things.
  • Don’t get angry – you might not agree with the customer, but they are always right.

These tips might not solve your crisis immediately, but they will at least help to make sense of a sticky situation.

As a final note, if you think you’re having a bad day, take a look at these examples of crisis management that went catastrophically wrong:

United Airlines

We all remember THAT picture, of a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight. The viral picture appalled social media users around the world, and the United response to the event just made matters worse. Their responses, both online and off, lacked empathy and the company were called out for lying about the situation and the reasons for the incident.


Sony Pictures sparked their fair share of global controversy after announcing the release of ‘The Interview’, a film depicting the assassination of a prominent political leader.  Sony found itself under cyber-attack and hundreds of company documents and emails were released around the world. The company immediately pulled the film, but were then criticised for backing down to cyberbullies, rather than making any attempt to defend their name. What’s more, their hackable security only furthered customers’ lack of faith in the company.


In 2006, news broke that Cadbury’s factories around the country had suffered outbreaks of salmonella. On the surface, their response seemed great; they were open with the media about problem products and provided a hotline for any customers with concerns. However, it later transpired that Cadbury’s had known about the salmonella incident for a long time, but had kept it quiet during peak Easter egg buying season, so as not to hurt their sales. This is a lesson that you cannot pick and choose how and when you’re transparent with your customers.

If you need a helping hand with crisis control, or just want to avoid a marketing crisis altogether, the Cobb team are here to help! Get in touch, pop in for a coffee and let’s discuss how you can make the most of your marketing – the right way!