“Cancel culture” according to Rolling Stone is “a way for a new generation of people to practice free speech.” It is a way to draw attention to things like insensitive remarks or aggressive behaviors that come from people or brands. When it comes to companies needing to respond to public upset over partnership issues, there is no one set universal response to avoid damage. However, with companies like Adidas and the Try Guys, we can see a trend regarding how the response part of a crisis management plan impacted its image recovery.
Delayed Response – Adidas and Kanye ‘Ye’ West
One of the most recent and well-known examples of a brand facing public scrutiny is Adidas and its former partnership with Kanye “Ye” West. In a slew of controversial moves ranging from promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories on social media to spreading false information about the death of George Floyd, several brands put their partnerships with Ye under review. While brands like JP Morgan, Chase, Balenciaga, and Gap cut ties immediately, Adidas didn’t respond to the issue as quickly.
Ye’s relationship with Adidas was more than just a celebrity and brand endorsement. According to NPR, Ye’s Yeezy line made up about 15% of Adidas’ net income. There was a projected cost of $246 million for the net income of 2022 and Adidas stock fell 4%. In reaction to Ye’s statements, Adidas waited about 2 weeks before issuing a statement. This delayed response upset customers and internal Adidas employees. There is one possible way this upset could have potentially been avoided. In a study regarding negative moments within celebrity endorsements, it was found that brands that responded quickly saw their stock rise by 2.1% on average. It didn’t matter if the brand stood by the individual or spoke out against them, it only mattered that the brand had said something.
Immediate Response – “Try Guy” tries cheating
What originally started out as rumblings on Reddit threads and fans launching their own investigations, quickly became a PR nightmare for the Try Guys. Ned Fulmer, one of the original members of the Try Guys channel, was discovered to be having an affair with Alex Herring, a Try Guys producer, in late 2022. This came as a shock to many fans as Fulmer was often referred to as the “resident wife guy” who constantly talked about how much he loved his wife whenever he could. Prior to people on the internet breaking the cheating scandal, the other three Try Guys, Eugene Lee Yang, Zach Kornfeld and Keith Habersberger, and company officials were already investigating the situation and had begun to edit Fulmer out videos. Because the affair involved a superior and their subordinate, lawyers, HR, and PR professionals became involved to figure out how to save the brand’s image.
When in a crisis, the first 24 hours are extremely important. After the crisis spread past Reddit, the remaining Try Guys released a statement distancing themselves from the actions of Fulmer. Shortly after, they also released a video breaking down the investigation, the plan of action, and the disappointment they felt about the situation. This shows that brands need to 1) have a crisis plan ready, especially when someone is essentially the face of the brand and 2) take action as soon as possible in light of controversial issues. The brand showed excellent responsibility when it began to take action as soon as it found out about the affair and didn’t hesitate to take action even before the public knew about the issue.
No Response – A Dying Trend
When it comes to determining a response, a big part of which trend to follow depends on the issue at hand. Between a delayed response and an immediate response, picking which trend to follow depends on the issue at hand. Despite whatever crisis at hand, however, simply picking a no-response or a “no comment” response is almost never the right trend. It is a type of response that many companies have begun to shy away from as of late. A “no comment” response looks as if there is something to hide about the issue at hand and lets someone else take control of the narrative. As Obsidian PR says, “There is ALWAYS something good to say.” It is important to be prepared to provide an answer that, no matter how bad the issue is at hand, can still bring up something good to focus on.
Of course, there might be instances where a “no comment” answer might be needed due to legal reasons, yet even then there is the option of turning the question into a positive response. Look to talking about the company’s business motives or future moves. Saying “no comment” is like hiding and hoping the problem goes away, and more times than not, avoiding to answer will create more issues.
Albert Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” However, for most companies, the best option is to listen to the public and issue a statement. Public trust relies on communication and having the skills to respond to a crisis appropriately. Trust in a brand can quickly be harmed if the brand doesn’t address the public’s concerns and the issue at hand.