Bouncing Back from Bad PR

Between floor mats and sticky gas pedals, Toyota has not exactly had the best first quarter ever.  Working in an industry where I hear people complain about the online ratings being brutal, I'm sure that those of you who've felt the sting of Apartment Ratings can sympathize, at least on some level.  Cars, apartments, Walmart - Bad PR is always the same. (Except for Walmart... they deserve to wiggle on the hook a bit.)  Turning around a problem is all about how you react to it..  Did Toyota drop the ball on this one?  Okay, yeah they did.  Run away gas pedal = uber scary and media hype-ability. 

It WAS bad.

But they fessed up.  See, this is the part where you get to start turning the bad stuff around.  Denial is easy, but not productive and not helpful to your reputation.  A real step 1 is ALWAYS the same: Fess Up.  Toyota had to recall over 400,000 Prius Hybrids and the total vehicle recalls tallied around 8.5 million.  Expensive, but to save their brand, it was necessary.  They might have acted a bit slow for the needs of the immediate gratification American society, 55% of whom, according to a recent Gallup poll, aren't happy with the response time.

Step 2: Resist the urge to tell people how they're totally blowing this out of proportion.  Look, I ran the numbers here.  We are talking about 19 unarguably tragic deaths in a span of 10 years, counted across 20 MILLION cars. That puts your actual odds of being killed by this defect at infinitesimal when compared to going down in a plane crash - 1 in 6,137 flights a year - being hit by lightning - 1 in 56,439 a year - or dying in an earthquake - 1 in 120,161.  But did they throw that out there?  Nope.

Instead, they moved to step 3: Focus on what we CAN do and the good we have done.  Granted, their ads aren't talking about the types of cars right now, gas mileage, etc., but what they are focused on is rebuilding consumer confidence.  They're talking about safety.  Sure, that's usually Volvo's shtick, but hey, it works.  At least they realize that the fundamental TRUST is what they have to rebuild.  People might forget over time, but trust takes effort to heal.  And it's working.  According to that same Gallup poll, 60% of Americans think it's safe to be in a Toyota.  53% of Americans who don't own a Toyota think they are safe, and among owners, that figure rises to 80%.

Are these steps going to sweep everything under the rug and make it go away? Certainly not, but they are going to go a long way in restoring and retaining customer relationships.  There's not a step that Toyota made that we in the apartment industry cannot also take in responding to criticism.  Take a moment to ponder this before you access that manager account on Apartment Ratings.  You might just change your response.

Calculus, Plant Reproductive Systems & Gerunds

February Marketing Ideas - Written for Appfolio's E-Zine