What's Driving Brand Crises in China?

Charlie Pownall Owner/Partner, CPC & Associates

Posted on August 14th 2014

What's Driving Brand Crises in China?

From GSK, Qualcomm, VW/Audi, Chrysler and Microsoft to McDonald’s, Yum Brands/KFC and most recently Walmart, it has been a long, hot summer for foreign companies in China as Beijing continues to enforce food safety and anti-monopoly laws.

Same same, you might say, a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders seemingly given weight by CIC/Ogilvy PR’s latest Crisis Management in the Social Era report, which finds that most significant crises in China in 2013 involved foreign companies, including nine of the top 10, as measured by the volume of Weibo posts.

Yet hark back to 2012 and the majority of crises in the Middle Kingdom involved domestic entities, evidence perhaps that the current clampdown is deliberately targeting foreign firms, despite denials from Beijing.

The report also contains interesting data on the effectiveness of different crisis responses on short-term purchase-decision making, the findings of which will not be unfamiliar to crisis communications professionals:

  • Least damaging: acknowledge the problem and promise to investigate
  • Most damaging: outright denial.

Whether the impact of a crisis is best measured by the volume of Weibo posts is open to question; impact on sales or reputation/trust are arguably more useful metrics. In addition, Weibo is only one of many social media in China, albeit the most influential, at least for now.

Notwithstanding concerns over the methodology, the report is an interesting read.

Here it is in full:

China / shutterstock


Charlie Pownall

Owner/Partner, CPC & Associates

Charlie Pownall is an independent communications consultant, trainer, speaker and writer who helps companies, public sector bodies and individuals improve their communications and manage their reputations. Focused on corporate communication, social media and online reputation management, he has worked in speechwriting, journalism, marketing, communications and social media, and has advised some of the world's largest companies and brands. Charlie is based in Hong Kong and works primarily across Asia.

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