Tag Archives: PR

Customer Service sometimes means having to say you’re sorry

We at The Armchair MBA have always advocated that a strong response to a misstep can actually leave you better off than if things went as originally planned.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, a small manufacturer of gourmet olive oils, Graza, felt they had not lived up to their own, or customers’, expectations through this past Holiday season.

Rather than concoct a complex and costly PR campaign to mollify frustrated customers (as the owner said “we are a 11 month old 5 person business LOL”), the owner simply sat down and wrote an email to roughly 35k past customers apologizing for shortcomings and promising to do better.

You can view the letter below. Hope your eyes are up to the challenge.

By all accounts the outreach has had a great positive effect – – not only was the letter’s transparency appreciated by many of the 35k recipients, but in an outstanding example of ‘collateral benefit’, it was picked up as a story by one of the biggest newspapers in the world (daily circulation around 2.8 million), AND The Armchair MBA is talking about it as well.

On the other hand, in addressing a small issue, the inevitably greater resulting demand will likely have created some much bigger challenges…for starters, production capacity might be getting some additional attention.

We wish Graza well. I would imagine that they will be expanding to more than 5 people in the near future.


How do you make a $370 Billion Oil Company seem Sympathetic?

Compare it to Lawyers!  Of course!  And that’s what BP seems to be doing to support their brand.


Is this a good move?  Vote Below.

You’ve probably seen BP’s full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and other major papers.  They’ve been unfolding since June while an appeals process went on; the final version is below.

At issue is BP’s claim that it is being taken advantage of by lawyers and people who were never financially hurt by the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Along the way the ads have emphasized the $14 billion in restoration costs and $12 billion in claims paid out since the 2010 Gulf oil spill, as well as pointing an oily finger at lawyers who, they claim, are defrauding BP by securing settlements for parties who didn’t sustain any damage.

A BP spokesperson put it this way: “Today we are working to ensure that our willingness to do the right thing is not taken advantage of and distorted to provide windfalls to undeserving businesses, including law firms…”

[This is not the first time an erstwhile villain garnered our sympathy by bravely battling an even more evil opponent.  In 1964 many of us had to admit that we were secretly rooting for Godzilla as he withstood the savage attacks of Mothra.  But I digress.]

Godzilla vs Mothra

So what is the point of a $370 billion company that committed a huge ecological mistake and is in an industry that the public generally views more negatively than positively, in placing these very public ads positioning it as a victim?  Certainly the BP brand has taken its share of shots in the last few years; maybe they are trying to provide a positive counterbalance?

The answer might be illuminated by considering who the target might be.
– the general public?  hardly – – seriously,  a fight between an oil company and lawyers?  Aren’t we hoping they both lose?
– Institutional investors?  possibly – – but if the intent is just to demonstrate that BP is supporting its brand, running ads is pretty low on the list of investors’ considerations.
– Retail investors – – probably doesn’t hurt — probably pleased to see a company fight to preserve profitability.  But there isn’t much meaningful outcome that would be expected from this group.
– Legislators?   A likely target, and this might just be part of BP’s ongoing and significant lobbying efforts.

Without weighing in personally, I’ll leave it to my readers.   It’s important to defend your brand, but how it’s done is really important.