Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crisis Communication and the Domino's Incident

For consumers, brands serve as risk reducers. They help simplify decisions in a world of complex choices and increasingly busy lives. Consumers depend on brands to deliver on their promises.

For companies, the brand itself can become the most valuable asset. The number of “brand followers” and the strength of their loyalty is where wealth resides.

Today’s Domino’s incident is a powerful demonstration of the importance of these principles and the risks to both consumers and companies. Two Domino’s employees made and posted on YouTube a video of themselves nastily contaminating what appear to be two sandwiches being prepared for a customer.

What will happen to public perceptions of the Domino’s brand? Indeed, what will happen to public perceptions of all organizations that provide prepared food to the public?

Domino’s has moved swiftly to bring charges against the two people involved. But, this incident is now about crisis communication with proactive action to restore consumer confidence. The restoration of trust involves material actions that consumers will see as an effective response to their risks so vividly demonstrated in the employee video.

Twenty-five years ago, the OTC drug industry took a substantial proactive step in response to a series of product tampering incidents. The packaging was improved to remove the tampering risk and restore public confidence.

Accordingly, going forward, the Domino’s incident points to the vulnerability of both food service practices and the public communication environment. Food preparation can be trusted to the extent that it is transparent. Therein lies the long-term solution, for consumer trust in brands and protection of brand value.

Copyright © 2009 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

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