Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Can Apology Advertising End Up Doing More Harm Than Good?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Can Apology Advertising End Up Doing More Harm Than Good?

Article excerpt

Toyota and Eurostar have launched marketing campaigns to express their contrition to consumers about recent high-profile and reputation-damaging failures to meet their brand promises.


This backfires when it is done in a way that fails to recognise that an apology is an expression of human emotion, not a piece of corporate speak.

Toyota is a thoughtful brand. It has built its credibility in Europe by sponsoring 'Green Designs' - mini-documentaries focusing on environmental solutions and 'hope.' It has engaged its audiences through human stories.

Then it takes out 'apology press ads' that are full of text and the heavy hand of the legal copywriter, but seemingly miss the opportunity to state that phone lines and service centres are 'open, now, 24/7 to respond to questions and concerns'.

For a brand to recover, an apology is not just a letter (or a resignation), but a series of actions over time that demonstrate the behaviour causing a problem has been addressed.

This requires sustained brand dialogue, including the use of channels such as YouTube, that shows the human side of the corporation Forgiveness is granted to those who are contrite, and then an apology can do good.


The great thing about the growth of online media is that brands no longer have anywhere to hide.

When Eurostar's trains were stranded in the Channel Tunnel recently, disgruntled passengers vented their anger on Facebook and Twitter, flooding the digital space with negative comments.

The reality is that, on occasion, things go wrong, but it's how brands handle the fallout from these mistakes that speaks volumes to customers Where complaints are valid, brands should take it on the chin. Apologising with sincerity is paramount, but the extent to which promises to resolve a situation are carried out is also critical.

Follow-up actions that fall short of the promise cause real damage, because the apology immediately reeks of insincerity. Customers can see brand spin a mile off, but those that demonstrate integrity will quickly be rewarded with the loyalty and forgiveness of the customers that have been wronged.

By all means publicly apologise for mistakes, just don't make promises that can't be delivered.


Hardly a week goes by without a shamed footballer or an incompetent corporation issuing a wrought public apology. …

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