Not all corporate apologies are created equal, but when are apologies even necessary? It is the habit of the American public to expect an apology, regardless of the seriousness of the event that took place. Let’s look at five popular corporate apologies and determine how they were delivered, and if they were needed for the brand to regain ground.
On New Year’s Eve, SnapchatDB.info went online and exposed more than 4 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers. Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, however is not exactly apologetic about the hack. In an interview with TODAY he defended his company by saying that he believed they had done enough to prevent the security hole they had been warned about. He also argued that the “Find Friends” feature, which requires your phone number, is an optional feature that users have chosen to activate.
Happy New Year! Let’s go Stanford! pic.twitter.com/JE1GlEpe7h
— Snapchat (@Snapchat) January 2, 2014
In the grand scheme of all that is wrong in the world, is strangers having your Snapchat ID and your phone number so incredibly invasive and life altering? No. Especially since most Snapchat users probably put more of their personal information out on their other social media platforms.
I say well done, Spiegel, well done. An apology in this situation is not completely necessary, as nothing offensive and life altering transpired.
Update: Snapchat eventually apologized. Read my coverage of it here.
JC Penney hired Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson, but not everyone was pleased about it.
I mean come on, hiring a witty, generous, charismatic Oscar host to represent a department store? The horror! One Million Moms spoke out about JC Penney’s “offensive” ads (Ellen in a commercial with Santa’s elves – remove your children from the room!) saying that Christians and traditional families are now being forced to stop shopping at JC Penney.
To showcase how seriously JC Penney took this group’s protests they featured two gay fathers in a Father’s Day ad.
I applaud you JC Penney. Standing behind your company’s beliefs and values regardless of one group’s disagreement is commendable, and no apology was needed in this situation.
The CEO of Lululemon caused a firestorm of fury among consumers when he defended his line of yoga pants. Many claimed that the quality was declining and their pants were becoming see through. However, Chip Wilson argued that it wasn’t the pants, it was the bodies in them that were causing the problem.
I know that many people initially want to say, “How dare he! Women’s bodies are beautiful at any size! Shame on him for putting them down!” But let’s really take a look at what happened here. Lululemon is an elite athletic brand, mostly geared towards yoga and Pilates practices. People were basically insulting the quality of their products, and Wilson said “quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for (the pants)” in an interview. Did he say “fatties shouldn’t be buyin’ my pants!”? No. He defended his company’s commitment to quality garments by saying that they aren’t for everyone.
Here in America it is becoming common to give everyone trophies for participating and people were outraged to hear a brand say it wasn’t for everyone. Is anyone upset at bikini companies because they aren’t flattering for all body types? Is anyone calling for the head of Under Armour’s CEO because their spandex tights are so tight they can squeeze a muffin top out of a model? No. Because not all products are for everyone.
In the end, Wilson did issue a formal apology, which many received as insincere because he mostly focused his apology on his employees who bore the brunt of his comments. Did Wilson need to apologize to the women offended that his $90 yoga pants don’t fit their bodies? I don’t think so. I think people need to grow a thicker skin and stop getting upset when they (God forbid) are told something isn’t for them.
Speaking of bowing to angry groups, enter A&E. Surely you’ve heard about Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty Robertson family, being suspended from the show because of comments he made in an interview with GQ. Readers were outraged at the anti-gay remarks he made and demanded A&E hand down punishment.
A&E temporarily suspended the head of the family that has made them BILLIONS of dollars and kept their network in business.
I’m going to make a generalization here, and granted I could be off, but I’m going to go ahead and guess that the vast majority of Duck Dynasty probably agrees with Robertson’s views, even if they aren’t quite so outspoken about it. A&E made a knee-jerk reaction, and was not considerate of their faithful audience. Within days, A&E lifted the suspension and all was right again with the Robertsons.
However, A&E has caused some lasting damage as they demonstrated their lack of conviction by adhering to the demands of people that don’t watch the show and took the claims out of context, rather than stand behind the family that they have worked with for years. Duck Dynasty fans and the Robertson family are unlikely to forget this event any time soon.
If you haven’t heard about the Domino’s video that went viral, consider yourself lucky. (Also, don’t search for it, as it will confirm all your fears of eating food you did not prepare.) In short, a couple of young Domino’s employees took a video of themselves doing some rather disgusting things to the food they were preparing, and of course it went public.
Obviously this is a situation that requires a massive apology, but the difference here is the delivery and timing of said apology. The Domino’s CEO reacted swiftly, and issued a formal public apology in a video created by the company that was disseminated to the media. I see this situation a little differently than the others mentioned because this error was not committed by higher up members of the company, just a couple of stupid teens working for one of the thousands of franchises.
Nonetheless, the CEO’s apology was genuine and swift, making it an excellent example for when corporate apology is necessary and executed well.
Hold Your Apologies
Many corporations deal with missteps in the lifetime of their company. Each situation calls for a specific reaction, but not always an apology. Many would assume that apologizing is a safe bet, but often it can cause more harm than good with consumers when a company is apologizing to appease a group that may not be their target audience.