Courtesy: This Is Us NBC
Last week, I posed the question of “what kinds of scenarios, allegations, or rumors risk planting emotional doubt in the minds of your stakeholders?” As I explained, this is an important question to answer as a little bit of emotional doubt can present long-term negative effects on your brand.
Coincidentally, this week an example emerged that demonstrates the impact of this reality, as well as the strange and unpredictable ways in which this type of risk can materialize. So, in the event that this question has not yet been brought to the discussion agenda with your team…
Imagine waking up to…
realize that a popular TV show used your product for the plot line of a beautifully crafted story, whereby one of their most beloved characters dies.
This may not seem a big deal at first-thought, but let’s add to the mix that:
- The story was brilliantly crafted to be highly emotionally compelling; and
- In the midst of their emotion, people realized that they have that same product in their kitchen – your product – and, oh my goodness, what if it burned down their home and killed their family! (Like it did in the show)
These two components combined, create a recipe for a viral situation that risks leaving a long-term negative association or sentiment towards your brand. Not a situation you would want to wake up to, I’m sure. Unfortunately for Crock-Pot, this was precisely the reality that they woke up to and had to deal with, these past few days.
As a result of this particular episode of NBC’s This Is Us, where an old Crock-Pot short-circuits after being turned off and burns the house down, killing the character Jack Pearson, Crock-Pot had to deal with customers frantically throwing out their slow cookers and questioning whether they can trust the brand to keep their family’s lives out of danger.
In other words, people began to irrationally believe that this very incident could happen to them. I say “irrationally believe”, because logically, in the history of Crock-Pot, and in the history of these very same people owning their Crock-Pots, this type of incident has never before happened. It was a fictional plot in a fictional story, that was relatable on a highly emotional level.
Crisis Ready Rule: Emotion always overpowers reason.
Talk about an unpredictable issue!
This incident was completely unexpected and unpreventable for Crock-Pot. They couldn’t have predicted it if they wanted to, which goes to show that no matter your level of security, due diligence, or control, the reality is that we live in uncertain times. The fact is that your organization is subject to a multitude of risks that can attack from every angle. The good news, is that when your team is crisis ready, your organization is prepared for anything and everything that the modern world can throw at it, making it invincible.
Was Crock-Pot Crisis Ready?
Let’s take a look…
Crock-Pot could have chosen to see this issue in one of two ways:
- As an irrational over-reaction to an incident that had no bearing and, would therefore simmer down on its own; or
- As a situation that threatened their reputation, as a result of the highly emotional reaction their customers were having – and acting on.
The fact that they chose to see it as the latter, shows us that their team is skilled in quickly and accurately identifying and assessing risk – one of the essential components of being crisis ready.
Having identified the potential impact of this rising risk, Crock-Pot chose to respond swiftly and compassionately. Before this incident occurred, Crock-Pot had flown so far under the radar that they did not even have a Twitter account. As the situation was unfolding largely on Twitter, they quickly created an account and began responding to inquiries, comments, reactions, and speculation.
The brilliant aspect of their response to this situation, was in their complete understanding of people’s feelings towards Jack Pearson. Never once did Crock-Pot underestimate or disregard their customers’ love for this character. Instead, they compassionately related to their customers’ feelings towards Jack, which was essential if the brand wanted those emotional customers to hear the logic that they then needed to communicate, in order for customers to understand that their Crock-Pots will not short-fuse and cause a fire!
We totally get it! Last night’s episode was 💔, & we’re still not over it either! We want to assure you that we’re committed to safety & you can continue to use our products with confidence. We test our #CROCKPOT rigorously before they hit shelves. Pls DM us with any questions.
— The Crock-Pot® Brand (@CrockPotCares) January 24, 2018
So yes, Crock-Pot appears to be crisis ready – and kudos to them! This was a blindsiding situation with the potential for a high-risk impact on the brand. And yet, even though they were completely caught off-guard, the Crock-Pot team was able to:
- quickly detect the rising threat,
- accurately assess the potential impact of the risk involved, and
- proactively respond with emotional relatability, compassion, and with facts that calmed concerns.
In doing this, Crock-Pot was able to quickly regain control of the narrative and deescalate the situation, mitigating the long-term negative association that risked tainting their good named. Well done, Crock-Pot!
What if this happened to you?
If faced with a similar type of situation tomorrow, do you feel confident that your team would be as agile, proactive, and successful in responding to, and managing the situation? If you have any doubt, there is effort that needs to be put into helping your team become crisis ready. This situation shows us that risk can emerge from anywhere – even fictional TV shows that had no intention of launching your brand into the limelight! Make your team crisis ready, and you will build an invincible brand that can instantly overcome any negative situation in a way that leads to increased organizational trust, credibility, and goodwill.
The book to help you build an INVINCIBLE brand.
By Melissa Agnes
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Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.
victoria pickering says
Love this case study — having my student at McGill consider how they would respond to such a situation.
Take good care,
Melissa Agnes Admin says
That’s a great exercise for your students. It’s a fascinating case study for so many reasons. Your students will thoroughly enjoy it, I’m sure! Let me know how it goes.
I really enjoyed your blog post. I agree that crisis can emerge from anywhere. It is great to be aware that they can arise at any give time and that a crisis management plan should always be set into place. Having a team that can catch and take care of a crisis is important.
I am currently taking a PR course and I can tie this knowledge into what I am learning in my Strategic Writing & Media Relations.
Melissa Agnes Admin says
I’m so glad you found the article to be relevant and applicable to your studies, Olivia! Best of luck with your course and have fun on the journey!
Desirae Mills, APR says
This is a great case study of crisis preparedness. What do you think could have happened had they not responded as swiftly as they did?
I appreciate your approach to crisis through preparation and look forward to getting your book.
Melissa Agnes Admin says
The risk with this situation, was that the irrational fear that customers felt could have remained as an impact on sentiment towards the brand. In other words, they could have in fact thrown out their Crock-Pots and never used the brand again. This is not a sentiment Crock-Pot would want associated with their brand, after decades of being a household great name. It was a viral issue that could have helped to chip away at the brand’s trust, goodwill, and credibility, had they not responded as brilliantly as they did.
I’m so excited for you to receive the book, Desirae!! Thank you for ordering it and feel free to come back and chat with me about it once you’ve read it!