Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Social media to drive product recalls

A new survey from myvouchers.co.uk shows that one in five people have spiked their own food with something to avoid paying for it. It does seem remarkably high and pretty appalling given the lengths brand owners go to to develop the highest quality products whilst adhering to stringent and complex manufacturing processes.

Occasionally however things do go wrong and consumers have a genuine cause for complaint when they find something in a product that shouldn’t be there. If the problem affects a batch then a decision is taken in consultation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the product to be either 'withdrawn' (taken off the shelves) or 'recalled' (when customers are asked to return the product). In the last four weeks there has been a recall of a well known champagne brand due to an allergy alert, a withdrawal of a brand of Fizzy Jelly Mix and Fizzy Cola Bottles sweets due to a concern about the metal tin base and a recall of a supermarket’s own label brand of milk chocolate due to the presence of nuts. Brand owners are required to place newspaper advertising to communicate recalls to consumers, but when was the last time you remember seeing or reading such a notification? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) already recognises this approach needs to be reviewed down-under. Their recent report recommends suppliers develop recall communication plans that target consumers based on demographics and communication preferences, including making greater use of social media and online forms of communication such as websites and blogs to advertise product recalls. If implemented in Australia the impact will surely be felt across the globe and other markets are certain to follow.

Most big food and drink brands are already embracing social media as part of their ongoing proactive communications but they also need to use it as an essential part of crisis communications too. Plum Organics used Facebook and Twitter extremely effectively to reassure consumers during its voluntary and precautionary recall of Apple & Carrot Baby Food. At Cirkle we work with our clients to implement tailored communications strategies all year round, not just in the event of a recall, and the role of social media within those strategies is never underestimated or overlooked.

Photo credit: guardian.co.uk

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