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Posts Tagged ‘bad pr’

AllState Didn’t Fully Cover Family Featured in Hurricane Sandy Ad

AllState InsuranceAllState insurance just released an ad touting the company’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and focusing on the supposed selflessness of its agents. The spot, titled “1,000 Thank You’s”, isn’t particularly subtle in its messaging—it’s called a “tribute to the 1,000 employees who put customers first” during the hurricane even when their own homes had been damaged.

Turns out the story is a little more complicated than that.

The problem? A Staten Island family whose home features prominently in the ad has some major gripes with AllState—and they’re not afraid to voice their issues in public. Customer Dominic Traina says he “got disgusted” after seeing the ad during Thanksgiving dinner because AllState only offered his family $10,000 for the damage depicted in the video after the jump.

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PR Fail: Cinemark Invites Families of Aurora Shooting Victims to Theater Reopening

A note to readers: While most of the PR failures we write about are unfortunate, they are also amusing (on some level). This one, however, cannot be categorized as anything but horrifically insensitive, bordering on cruel.

Relatives of the victims of last summer’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado recently received invitations from Cinemark USA to attend the reopening of the same theater at which their loved ones lost their lives. The invitations, which were sent just after the holidays, urged recipients to “reserve [their] tickets” for an evening of remembrance and a movie to follow.

In response, family members sent a strongly-worded letter to Cinemark in which they expressed anger and outrage at the company’s lack of compassion, calling the invitation “disgusting”. They also noted that Cinemark representatives never reached out to offer their condolences; the company even rebuffed requests to meet with family members without lawyers present. The letter admonishes the reopening celebration as a “thinly veiled publicity ploy” and calls for a boycott of the theater.

Click through for the full letter, which appeared in The Denver Post complete with the signatures of eight shooting victims’ relatives:

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Toyota Recovers from PR Stumbles with Hot Pink Re-Branding

2013 Toyota CrownWe’d be hard-pressed to think of a bigger PR disaster for an automotive brand than the largest car recall in history followed by a massive tsunami wreaking untold damage on international supply chains. Heck, we didn’t even mention this valuable lesson about the dangers of automated spam messaging or this misguided effort to raise brand awareness among toddlers.

And yet, 2012 sales numbers tell us that Toyota has already recovered from a wide-reaching scandal that started in 2009 with reports of “technical difficulties” in its vehicles and ended with the recall of more than seven million individual automobiles. In fact, the Japanese company ended the year by reclaiming its place as the world’s most successful car maker.

Toyota obviously wanted to get people talking in 2013, so it came out swinging with a re-branding initiative fronted by a hot pink “executive” sedan. Japanese CEOs and their teenage daughters now have one more thing in common…a favorite color! Did someone invite Hello Kitty reps to participate in creative strategy meetings?

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Top 10 PR Crises of 2012 via Solomon McCown

In this video exclusive, crisis communications expert and Solomon McCown & Company president Ashley McCown reviews her top 10 PR crises of 2012. Her top cases range from athletes on trial to deep-fried chickens for traditional marriage. Do we agree? Disagree?

‘Mellow’ Marley Drink Leads to Middle School ‘Zombiefest’

Marley's Mellow Mood Drink It’s not just energy drinks, guys: A group of New Jersey schoolchildren started feeling a little too chill after consuming a few cans of Marley’s Mellow Mood, a beverage whose promoters call it “the anti-energy drink”. And where did they find this illicit substance with its “soothing style, natural ingredients and great taste”? In their middle school cafeteria, of course!

The blame for this completely unforgivable crime against humanity alternately rests with the company that stocks the cafeteria, the individuals who agreed to include the product on the school cafeteria list, and the students who decided to drink several cans of the “100% natural relaxation beverage” before reporting to the school nurse with symptoms of “nausea, headaches, light-headiness, and a feeling of lethargy.” One kid went so far as to call it “a zombiefest.”

All this from a lightly carbonated grape soda with the same ingredients as Celestial Seasonings’ SleepyTime tea? Hmm…

Parents are understandably outraged at the school for selling a drink whose label reads “…may cause drowsiness. Best enjoyed when you are ready to relax.  Do not mix with alcohol.  Not intended for children”, but we’re more interested in this product’s unique pitch. We’ve never come across a soda that claims to “reduce stress and relieve tension, while calming the soul and easing the mind”, and we have to say we’re shocked to learn that Marley’s Mellow Mood contains valerian root, lemon balm, passion flower, hops and chamomile–but no THC.

Now we feel like taking a nap, so we guess we’d have to call the promo campaign successful…

PR Fail: Cheerios GMO Backlash Goes Social

Cheerios Facebook Cheerios recently tried to make the most of social media as a PR tool by doing what everyone else was already doing: designing Facebook apps to encourage its hundreds of thousands of fans to interact with the brand.

Unfortunately, that plan blew up in the face of parent company General Mills. Cheerios attempted to gain the invisible, invaluable thing we call “brand loyalty” by presenting fans with an app that allowed them to write about “what Cheerios means to me” in the cereal’s trademark font. But the brand’s social team quickly discovered that many Facebook users don’t approve of General Mills’s relationship with genetically modified foods—or its political advocacy on the subject.

The activists’ quick storming of the forum forced Cheerios to kill the app after just one day. Click through for the backstory.

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PR Challenge: Fast Food Workers Stage Mass Walk-Offs

Burger King Protest New York CityThe fast food industry can’t seem to catch a break these days.

Just kidding, those chains make billions of dollars a year—and most have seen their profits increase during the recession. But their employees are another story: they keep trying to unionize! What’s that all about?

Thursday saw a successful blunt-force trauma PR campaign waged by New York City fast food employees with the backing of churches, civil rights groups and labor unions–all united under the Fast Food Forward banner and the “can’t survive on $7.25″ tagline. The first group of workers walked off the job at a Manhattan McDonald’s at 6:30 in the morning, when supporters gathered with signs demanding higher pay and better benefits. More followed suit throughout the day.

The struggle to unionize has a long history in nearly every industry, but yesterday apparently marked the first time that so many have left work en masse at dozens of different restaurants in a coordinated effort to pressure employers.

Some basic facts: The average New York City fast food employee makes approximately $7.25/hour, earning only $11,000 per year. This total obviously doesn’t amount to a living wage in a city like New York—and organization is particularly challenging in an industry with such a high turnover rate. Some also claim that their employers do not offer sufficient sick days or health care benefits. Their collective demands include hourly wages in the range of $15, which would be a substantial increase.

From a distance, this looks like a textbook case of terrible PR.

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Man Sues Airlines for Obese Wife’s Death

KLM AirlinesIn a tale of tragedy and PR disaster that almost certainly could have been avoided, a grieving Bronx husband just announced plans to sue Delta, KLM and Lufthansa airlines for millions.

Earlier this year, the three carriers each claimed to be unable to provide seating to his wife Vilma, who died in Europe while awaiting a return flight to New York. The couple planned to go home to the States after a European vacation so Vilma could resume treatment for diabetes and kidney disease; she weighed approximately 425 pounds at the time of her death.

The couple flew to their native Hungary via Delta and KLM “without incident” in September after Vilma apparently boarded two planes “with the help of an airlift…and a seatbelt extender”. Husband Janos now claims that airline reps in Europe “asked about return flights so [they] could make proper arrangements” and that he purchased two separate seats on the way back to accommodate his wife.

And yet, the couple’s lawyer says that the very same KLM Airlines forced the pair to de-plane in Budapest “due to an issue with a seat back” and urged them to drive to Prague, where a second pilot ordered Vilma from his plane after “they put her on the seat and they couldn’t belt her in”. The two then drove to Frankfurt only to be denied service by Lufthansa reps, who voiced concerns over passenger safety when Vilma “didn’t fit in a three-seat gap”; she died of kidney failure in Hungary two days later.

A Delta rep told ABC News that the airline simply couldn’t seat Vilma “Despite a determined good-faith effort”; the husband’s attorney claims that his client “wants to know why his wife had to die because the airlines simply didn’t want to be inconvenienced.”

We’re not sure the story is so simple.

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Walmart Employees Plan ‘A Thousand’ Holiday Protests

Walmart Storefront

Walmart‘s holiday season PR troubles now look to extend beyond a consumer backlash against the big-box retailers who’ve decided to begin their Black Friday sales at 8 PM on Thanksgiving day.

Last week saw more than one case of employees walking off the job in groups, and now an advocacy group called Making Change at Walmart–which operates with the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union– claims that this week will bring a series of protests by Walmart employees around the country. Organizers announced their plans to journalists on a conference call, predicting “a thousand store protests” from LA to DC.

Of course, the employees’ case doesn’t center on Walmart’s decision to open on Thursday evening–though some do claim that management told them about the updated Thanksgiving schedule “on short notice” and gave them no choice as to whether they wanted to work that day or not. Their primary concerns include low wages, increasing health care premiums and “alleged retaliation from management” in order to punish employees for lodging complaints and attempting to organize.

A Walmart spokesman called the planned protests “another exaggerated publicity campaign” and claimed that the employees are just looking to generate headlines, so it doesn’t look like company executives have any interest in negotiation.

We have little doubt that Walmart will succeed in its ongoing attempts to prevent employees from unionizing. But how can the company counter such a large and well-organized movement? If these protests go down as promised, we have a feeling the Walmart team will end up making a whole lot of sterile and ultimately ineffective public statements that will do nothing to satisfy the protesters.

Will these events eventually do significant damage to the business?

Ikea Sorry for Using East German Slave Labor

Ikea We love Ikea for its particleboard dorm-room tables, its interactive catalogs and its maze-like retail monoliths–masterpieces of psychological trickery designed to make it impossible for visitors to leave without walking past every single cupboard and toothbrush holder stocked in the company’s massive basement warehouses.

But this week we learned that Ikea hasn’t always been a group of good guys distributing meatballs and cheap full-length mirrors to Americans on a budget. While the company’s “official code of conduct” currently includes “zero tolerance for child and forced labor”, its European executives apparently didn’t feel any ethical qualms about utilizing prison labor in the 70’s and 80’s.

A recent report on Ikea’s past practices by auditor Ernst and Young–which the company requested after outside parties accused it of using slave labor–revealed that the workers who made some of the company’s signature furniture in its East German factories didn’t work by choice: they were prisoners who’d been sentenced to hard labor due to their political beliefs, which in most cases amounted to opposing the Soviet-backed Communist government after the post-war division of Germany. Seems like Ikea had a “don’t ask, don’t tell”-style arrangement with its Eastern partners.

Ikea can’t claim ignorance either; the Ernst and Young report found that company executives received tip-offs about the practice but did nothing to curb it.

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