How Marketers Can Prepare for Unexpected Controversies

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Marketers are doing their bit in dealing with the dust-up like the one around Aaron Rodgers and his vaccine comments

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The issue is not new. It also came to the fore for marketers in the wake of a sex scandal involving golfer Tiger Woods more than a decade ago. In 2009, several women said he had an affair with her. Following the allegations, Mr Woods said he would take a break from golf indefinitely.

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AT&T Inc.,

PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade and Procter & Gamble Company’s Gillette dropped Mr. Woods. Sportswear Retailer Nike Inc.,

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However, opted to stay with him.

Until recently, major brands were frequently drawn into political feuds related to then-President Donald Trump.

Companies must determine where they stand on key issues, such as inclusion, sustainability and vaccination, before they face them, said Richard Edelman, CEO of communications firm Edelman.

While companies are not required to come out and announce a consistent stance on everything, they do need to be able to explain their actions to customers and employees, Mr. Edelman said. It could serve as a North Star if they get caught up in controversy.

“As a business, we have a choice of ducking or not ducking,” Mr. Edelman said. “I don’t think ducking is something that is viable. You have to at least explain why you are doing what you are doing. Lowering your head is not an option.”

The incident surrounding Mr Rodgers began with the revelation that he had tested positive for Covid-19, despite publicly saying he had been immunised. The controversy escalated after the Green Bay Packers quarterback questioned the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing serious disease while reducing transmission and spread.

“We do not endorse some of the statements he made, but we do respect his right to have his own personal point of view,” a State Farm spokesperson said in a statement.

As State Farm discovered with a dust-up on Mister Rodgers, with critics of brands able to quickly raise each other on social media, marketers are regularly faced with sudden, unexpected dilemmas about how or If they suddenly get caught in controversies, what is the answer? by reason of the actions of a spokesperson or otherwise.

Marketers will often have to choose whether they will go ahead with a campaign, stop it, or drop it altogether.

Healthcare provider Previa said in a statement that it is committed to protecting patients and staff, including helping eligible populations get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Brands today need to understand the pressure on celebrities to take political and social positions, said Doug Schabelman, CEO of Burns Entertainment, a company that matches celebrities with corporations for advertising and other opportunities.

“If you look at what has happened to politics over the past six years, which I have been constantly advising my clients, you have to realize that these celebrities are no longer going to hold back from sluggishness or stance in some cases. Will follow,” said Mr. Schabelman said, noting that while some celebrities are more outspoken, others remain silent on such issues. Whatever stance the celebrities take, they will be “dissected, commented on.”

Smart marketers think about these issues in advance and consider their plans if a celebrity makes a comment that could turn off customers, Mr. Schabelman said.

Companies also have to grapple with whether online feedback really reflects the sentiment of their customers. Jeremy Mulman, a partner at marketing agency ICF Next, which leads the firm’s commercial media-relations exercise, said the reaction can seem overwhelming for a brand on social media, but represents only a small portion of the conversation. can.

“It’s always good to use whatever tools you have at hand to understand the conversation you’re dealing with, and who’s really talking about it, so you’re clearly making decisions.” and are not responding only to the loudest voices,” he said.

Megan Graham at [email protected]


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