September 9, 2015
Kraft Recalls Bacon: Breakfast PR Takes a Disastrous Turn
For bacon lovers, the news could hardly be any worse. Kraft recently recalled two million pounds of Oscar Mayer turkey bacon after consumers reported illnesses. Now, bacon purists might argue consuming turkey bacon in any amount is actually an illness. But those who want to stay healthy or avoid pork for other reasons enjoy turkey bacon because they can dig into the breakfast staple without transgressing in other important areas.
When the headlines hit, the reaction was not discerning. Bacon was being threatened, and people took it very seriously. Then, Kraft Heinz made it worse by issuing a stilted recall released announcing some products “may be adulterated.” Now, it’s a perfectly fine word, but in the world of clear communication it ranks pretty low. Maybe they were shooting for ambiguous in order to keep consumers from being disgusted … but when bacon is in the offing, it pays to be clear, concise and simple.
Worse, the report indicated that the food industry giant “discovered” the issue after “spoilage-related consumer complaints.” You do NOT want your brand connected to the words “spoilage-related.” Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced reports of illnesses related to the consumption of these products.
The situation quickly spiraled out of control for Oscar Mayer. They gave concerned consumers words like “adulterated,” while the news was saying things like “spoiled” and “illnesses.” Note the plural form of illness.
When you go for highbrow and confusing but the media breaks it right on down to words that look scary in massive fonts or on chirons under concerned looking reporters, you have officially lost control of the message stream. Worse, people think you were trying to hide something … simply because you chose a word the general public will not relate to. When the news keeps it simple, and you make it complex, the consumer market tends to believe you may be hiding something.
You might be thinking: “Well, we dodged a bullet there” … Meanwhile, they are thinking: “What do they REALLY mean by adulterated?”
Next time you have a crisis and you need to communicate your response to the problem. Do it so you don’t have to come back and explain what you really meant.