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Business News/ Companies / How to convince customers and rebuild brand trust
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How to convince customers and rebuild brand trust

When a brand like Maggi that is fraught with controversy is being re-introduced, what are the strategies a management can adopt? Three experts tell us

Photo: BloombergPremium
Photo: Bloomberg

Need to be wary of rivals
Siddharth Shekhar Singh, associate professor of marketing, Indian School of Business

Relaunching a product that has been pulled out of the market due to a controversy is sometimes easier than launching a new product, particularly when the company is not perceived to be at fault, says Singh.

“In the case of Maggi, in relaunching the product Nestlé will not face all the challenges that a company typically faces in any new launch, as people are already aware of Maggi and it’s a proven product," he says.

The biggest challenge for any company, says Singh, is to convince customers to move past the controversy and try the product again.

“Customers have inertia. In the case of Maggi, some of them might have moved to a competitor and some others might have quit the category entirely over health concerns," he says, adding that some such customers might not come back to the product.

In such a relaunch scenario, a company must first try to clear the air around the controversy without strengthening the link between the negative aspects of the issue and the product in the minds of consumers.

“In Nestlé’s case, it has to come up with simple, clear and effective campaigns to make sure that people understand that there is nothing wrong with the product, especially on the health side," says Singh, adding that making the product available again in the market is another huge logistical challenge that the company will face.

Compared with smaller firms, a market leader such as Maggi will find it easier to re-launch, says Singh. “For strong brands, it’s easier to recover from such shocks. The task can be made easier if they handled the situation better when the crisis erupted," he adds.

However, companies need to be wary of rivals who might use the crisis to increase their market share and create a negative perception about the product at the centre of the controversy.

“The competition will try to use the situation to its advantage by highlighting issues such as health hazards, as in the case of Maggi, to further its products in the market," says Singh, adding that for smaller rivals, it makes sense to use such strategies to gain market share even at the expense of the category itself.

—Swaraj Singh Dhanjal

New packaging or new launch
Jessie Paul, founder and CEO, Paul Writer

According to Paul, relaunches vary from just new packaging formats to ones that treat the relaunch almost like a new brand launch and use all channels of advertising.

She says brands such as Old Spice and Cadbury have successfully relaunched themselves in the past. “For instance, Old Spice, which was a voluntary relaunch, was one such example that transformed ‘your Grandpa’s aftershave’ into one for the contemporary man," she adds.

Cadbury’s relaunch—after worms were found in its products— involved a complete revamp of the packaging, which was the root cause, hiring a very credible brand ambassador in Amitabh Bachchan and educating the entire supply chain, she points out.

Paul says brands like Maggi, which is trying to come back to the market after the recent controversy over its quality, have two ways to relaunch its product.

“Admit that it (the company) may have been somewhat at fault and show how it has addressed any possible weaknesses prior to its relaunch or tell consumers that they were the victim of an unfair witch-hunt. Either route will need to be backed up with supporting facts, which are glaringly missing in the current outreach," she says.

It would also be a good time to prove that instant noodles is as healthy as chapatti and sabzi, she says.

Paul, however, says that Maggi’s current relaunch appears shaky. “After an inexplicable silence, Maggi came back with by-the-Agency-for-the-Agency ‘I miss you Maggi’ ads, which did not address its core market of kids and their mothers. Then the blunt ‘Maggi is safe’ ads, which failed to explain then why it was not back on shelves," she notes.

—Bidya Sapam

Be transparent, communicate
Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia

There has to be transparent and honest communication from the company at every step," says Bhasin, who in his career spanning over three decades has worked with large brands across advertising agencies.

According to Bhasin, any crisis—internal or external—must involve all stakeholders in a company, including employees, suppliers, vendors, government and, of course, consumers, who must be told what is going on. “The more the companies wait around, the more questions are raised. And you don’t want rumour mills working on an overdrive," he cautions.

According to him, brand trust isn’t built in a day—but it can crumble in a day. “Be patient and tactile, involve the top executives, people who have a reputation of trust within and outside the organization," adds Bhasin. Shareholders need a constant voice of reassurance coming from the company.

That job cannot be given to a mid-level employee.

In the case of Maggi for instance, Nestlé’s global chief Paul Bulcke flew down from the company’s head office in Vevey, Switzerland, to talk to the government, addressing the media and other such stakeholders.

As for consumers, suggests Bhasin, since they don’t necessarily relate to the top management, “deploy brand ambassadors to communicate with consumers".

Just like Cadbury chocolates roped in actor Amitabh Bachchan in 2004 to rescue the brand amid controversy surrounding its chocolate bars that were found to have worms. The brand released a commercial featuring the actor talking about the safety measures taken by the chocolate maker.

Ensuring the safety of a product with a voice that is trustworthy and communication that is timely can help, adds Bhasin.

Also, “accept and apologize". Now that the blunder has been done, there is little you can do to cover it up.

Be transparent and communicate regularly—be it through videos, website updates, communication to the press and of course well-planned advertisements, suggests Bhasin.

—Suneera Tandon

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Updated: 14 Nov 2015, 01:32 AM IST
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