These PR disasters defined the course for certain brands in 2019
Updated: Jan 21
No matter how many precautions you take, sometimes things go out of control. You cannot possibly prevent every single disaster that might come your way and PR campaigns are no exceptions. PR campaigns sometimes go wrong too, and sometimes you’re in the middle of a murky PR disaster with no scope of salvation. It is important to learn from mistakes (yours and others) to ensure your brand and organization is best prepared to save its reputation. And sometimes, it is best if we learn from other’s mistakes. With the year ending, here’s a look at some of the biggest PR mishaps of 2019:
Tesla’s Cybertruck launch
This goes up #1 because it’s my favourite fail of all times. Not only did Cybertruck’s unbreakable windows smash, leaving Elon Musk very red-faced, but also turned around the entire PR mishap into a unique sales opportunity for Tesla. The company now has more than 200,000 pre-orders, all through the window smashing incident.
While the initial incident dipped Tesla’s stock prices, the PR and media curiosity around Cybertruck eventually led to the huge spike in intrigue seen in the form of pre-orders. This is a one-off instance of “Any publicity is good publicity” that just turned out great for Cybertruck eventually.
The case of a split Nike shoe and a pregnancy debacle
The world’s largest and one of the most revered sports apparel brand suffered a major embarrassment this year when basketball player Zion Williamson’s Nike show fell apart during one of the biggest games of the year. He even ended up spraining his knee as a result of the mishap. This could have been a product liability case for Nike, let alone embarrassment in front of millions of views. The “Just Do It” brand has been known to be motivational and aspirational for people across the globe, this incident led to their stocks falling 1% on that trading date. Even with small incidents like a shoe breaking apart, it means a brand instantly loses an amount of trust and market cap among consumers.
Apart from that, the revered brand also was caught up in a compensation case around payments. It was reported that Nike would reduce the payments towards athletes if their performances fell short (even during pregnancy/childbirth). This opened a can of worms with regard of double standards. The company faced major backlash over cutting compensation during pregnancy and childbirth. Later, the company worked towards changing their policies.
Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” campaign
Admittedly, this campaign by Gillette has been one of the bravest and clutter breaking campaign in the post #MeToo era. While the intention of the popular razor company was to start a conversation about men holding each other accountable, the campaign did not go down too well with their core target audience – men. This ad campaign is split in half and half with its appraise as well as criticism. The internet is abuzz with equal amounts of praise and backlash. MarketingWeek claimed the ad backfired on the brand and affected sales metrics.
The Great Indian CAA-NRC Uproar
Closer home, nothing has hit the country like the recent uproar over the Citizenship Amendment Bill and National Registry of Citizens. With millions out on the roads protesting the government’s move, this has probably snowballed into the biggest PR crisis for Bharatiya Janata Party in a very long time. While the future of the act is undecided at the time of writing of this article, people will look back as this moment being a landmark positioning factor for the political party in coming elections.
With 2020 inching closer, let’s hope they find recourse that helps in rebuilding brand credibility and equity.