Volkswagen, Pepsi, and United Failed…but in This Case a Catastrophic Fail Can Actually Be a Marketing Stroke of Genius







In recent times I have seen mega global brands fail in a big way.


Volkswagen’s corporate social responsibility failure of deliberately circumventing emissions control was a move they thought would never catch up to them. Well it did. In fact, many economists have estimated the costs to exceed $45 billion. While the stock has hit low during the last few years, it remains higher than what it was as recent as 2010. Can the folks at the wagen maker turn this fail around? For some the fact that Volkswagen offered a program to buy back their non-compliant cars and a cash payout of $5100 will build and increase their brand loyalty. Could this action create brand evangelists who will actually protect and convert others to the mega brand? Time will tell.








This recent ad debacle pushed buttons in so many ways. The inability for Pepsi to tell their story about diversity and bringing people together was a mega disaster to another great brand. As another social failure we find Pepsi as a brand in an interesting spot. Although it might be too early to tell, Pepsi stock hasn’t had the hit that we saw with the Volkswagen ordeal. Is Pepsi’s apology and pulling its ad enough to avoid the financial collapse many are predicting? Sure the mega-investors lost some big money; however, the reality is that Pepsi has got a ton of media impressions as the result of the mistake.









While the backlash of United forcibly removing the passenger they overbooked created jokes all over social media, we see yet another blunder in how people should be handled. It’s no laughing joke. Again we see a decrease in United’s stock and some of their largest investors lost a ton of money. The long term effect of how United responded to their incident could cause the company to loose significant market share.








Stroke of Genius

Nearly never. However, when a brand is unknown a big mistake can become a huge benefit. For young brands the number one priority is to drive brand awareness. When media covers a social disaster or even more impactful when social media covers it, young brands drive awareness which have been seen to drive sales as a sheer coincidence of exposure to a larger audience. Why you might ask? I attribute this growth to how diverse each individual’s moral standards have become over the years. Marketers who know how to reply and engage with disaster in a quick and effective manner can help brands come out ahead. The reality is that I suspect in all of the mega brand cases above, they too will come out of their slump and regrow their brand valuation.

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