Conducting a Successful Product Recall in a Social World

It’s a company’s biggest nightmare.  A product recall.  What’s worse?  When it’s a children’s product, since emotions run especially high when the wellbeing of little ones is at risk.

Last Friday, baby food and toddler snack brand Plum Organics issued a voluntary recall of a range of their products.  I found out about it on Monday night, while browsing my Facebook news feed.  Comparatively, the well-known Tylenol recall in 1982 was initially communicated with Chicago police driving through the city announcing the warning over loudspeakers.  Indeed, the communication of product recalls has changed since the advent of social media.

In today’s social world, a product recall can present great risk to brands if done incorrectly.  However, as demonstrated by historical best practices from brands such as Tylenol and Lexus, a product recall can provide an excellent opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.  UK-based Eclipse Marketing found that almost three quarters of consumers will consider a repeat purchase following a recall if they had a good brand experience.  On the flipside, if a recall is badly executed and poorly communicated, 70% of customers would actively criticize a brand online and through word-of-mouth.

While Plum Organics has its fair share of critics regarding the handling of its recall, I was amazed by the support demonstrated on their Facebook page:  For example, one customer wrote, “I’ll still be loyal to your company. This happens to a lot of companies that sweep it under the rug and compromise their ingredients. Thank you for being so proactive and making a great product!”

Clearly Plum Organics is doing something right.  Now, what are some of the key elements that can help your brand emerge from a recall with similar consumer engagement?

Social media provides brands with a unique opportunity to have a conversation with consumers.  Brands like Plum Organics that strike a strong connection, and do a good job preparing for a potential recall, are well-positioned to emerge from the crisis even stronger.


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