The answer is that they have all been in the news in the last few weeks thanks to a piece of external communications. You would be forgiven for missing these stories though as all too often we focus on ‘bad’ corporate communications, we forget what ‘good’ looks like.
As the following brands have reminded us, a proportionate or well-thought through comms strategy is the difference between making headlines for the right or wrong reason.
Marks and Spencer v Fabio’s Gelato
It’s a classic David and Goliath story.
When a Hertfordshire-based ice cream parlour decided to create a ‘Percy Pig ice cream’ decorated with the swinish sweets, Marks and Spencer quickly contacted the owner demanding the ice cream was renamed.
It would have been easy for the retailer to go in guns blazing with a cease and desist letter as many brands have done before – after all, they own the trademark for ‘Percy Pig’ and are legally entitled to protect it.
But M&S have clearly learned lessons from their public spat with Aldi on the discount retailer’s take on the infamous Colin the Caterpillar cake. The legal battle finally ended earlier this year with an out of court settlement but the issue remains a popular social media meme.
This time the high street retailer wrote to the ice cream parlour asking them to change the name in a letter that even its owner branded ‘polite and fair’. The light-hearted letter explained their reasoning, offered some alternative names and was even accompanied by some free Percy Pigs.
While this is an appropriate approach – after all, a local ice parlour is in a different league to one of their main competitors – this shift in tone is telling. And M&S have clearly demonstrated that free treats will always help sweeten the deal.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Earlier this month the Bank of England’s chief economist, Huw Pill, sparked headlines for his comments that people in the UK need to ‘accept’ they are worse off and stop trying to maintain their real spending power through higher wages or passing costs on to customers. Widespread backlash from small businesses, consumer groups and unions duly followed with his comments branded as ‘out of touch’ and ‘outrageous’.
He has now apologised for his comments, admitting he should have used ‘less inflammatory’ language and that in the future he will use ‘different words to describe the challenges we all face’.
While this apology does not change what he said, it shuts the story down and means the Bank of England can move on and regain its credibility as a leading voice in the finance sector.
Interestingly – and perhaps even intentionally – although Pill acknowledges he misspoke, his most recent comments double down on his original warning about the economic challenges the UK is facing.
The stark reality is that the Bank of England has a tough job ahead to settle the economy, but when it comes to such a sensitive issue as personal finances, words matter.
Pets before profit
“It may sound weird to be actively selling a product that we hope gets discontinued, but that’s part of our purpose… because we want to make a difference.”
So started a BBC interview with the marketing director for dog food business, Wilder Harrier. The Canadian firm’s ‘Sustainable Fish’ dried dog food is made from an invasive species of fish called silver carp, which has destroyed native fishing stocks in the USA’s Mississippi River.
By capturing silver carp to sell as dog food, the company is tackling what one Canadian province is calling ‘the most severe threat’ to their waters – while building strong brand loyalty with more than 10,000 bags sold to date.
Wilder Harrier’s approach to actively pursuing ‘a diminishing supply of [the product’s] main ingredient’ is refreshing, and a clear example of putting the natural world before profit.
In a communications world increasingly drowned out by greenwashing, it is more important than ever before for brands to have a clear social purpose.
To find out more about how WA can support with ‘good’ corporate communications, contact Associate Director RachelFord@wacomms.co.uk