It seems like every week there in a manufacturer issuing some sort of product recall, and automobile manufacturers in particular have had a difficult year in regards to recall notices. Just in the last 2 weeks alone we have seen major recalls by Ford and Volkswagen involving nearly 900,000 vehicles. Since January of 2014, there have been over 100 million - that's 100,000,000 vehicle recalls, and the trend is only increasing in 2015. The challenge for advertisers at the manufacturer and franchise level is: How do we address these recalls?
Play or Downplay?
Manufacturers tend to downplay the news about a recall, both in terms of the notice itself and any PR associated with the recall. This makes sense, as a manufacturer you want to avoid a negative brand perception. You respond quickly and appropriately, but try to refocus the news on items that will not cause a persistent negative sentiment. However, is this the right move for a store or a franchise?
The answer very much depends on the situation. One thing that is for sure is that the franchise and its employees are the ones who are going to have to deal with the majority of the brain damage associated with the recall. If you bought a brand new Ford and it has a recall, are you going to drive across country to Ford's Corporate Park and bang on the door demanding to be compensated? No, you're going to go to your local Ford dealer. If you bought a new child car seat and there is a recall, are you going to drive to Graco's Corporate HQ and demand a new seat? No, you are going to drive back to Babies R Us or call Amazon and demand satisfaction. This affects the way we (I am a Marketing Director for a franchise) market and engage with our customers about such recalls, since we will not only face negative brand sentiment, but also the customers themselves many times.
Play For Positivity + Profitability
Addressing such recalls at the franchise level can be a win for both your customers and your profits. Performing recalls, or restoring a customer's purchased product to a safe operating condition is a great thing, and if performed correctly gives you a chance to leave a positive impression on that customer - especially first time customers. Although a customer's opinion of that recalled brand might have been negatively affected, their impression of your franchise, dealership, or store might been positively influenced, and this might open the door for potential sales and referrals at a later date.
Start Small & Carry On
If you're hesitant to bring negative attention to your store, begin with a campaign that will target only those customers who have been affected by the recall. Next, create organic web pages that explain the recall and how your business can help. Lastly, used paid search (together with your optimized organic pages) to help target searchers who are looking for information on the recall. Move forward with campaigns that you are comfortable with and remain optimistic - as the real affect of recalls on sales is very debatable.
Plan, Plan, & Plan
Lastly, it's important that recall strategy becomes a core part of your planning. As products become increasingly complex, recalls will also increase in quantity, and unfortunately so will the need to address them.