By. J. Dean Spence
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 crisis has been widely covered by the media. Over 3 million of the devices have been recalled because of concerns they might overheat or explode. Samsung has stopped producing the Note7 completely. Some estimate that the recall will cost the company over $6 billion, but is the brand itself beyond repair?
In “Why Samsung’s Note7 Crisis Won’t Hurt its Brand Long Term” scholar Utpal M. Dholakia outlines three reasons why Samsung will rebound. First, Samsung has a large loyal base of existing customers which should insulate the brand. Because Samsung has this large group of loyal customers, it should experience “brand Insulation effect”, ensuring the damage will be minimal. Indeed, Dholakia even points out that some Samsung consumers are not even complying with the recall—taking their chances with their beloved phones even though they may be dangerous.
Second, geographically identified brands bounce back quickly. This crisis is probably for South Korea what the Volkswagen emissions crisis was for Germany. Dholakia reminds us that very soon after the emissions scandal, most Germans not only felt that the scandal was overblown, but that Volkswagen makes quality cars.
Third, the Note7 crisis is limited to a single Samsung product and is self-contained.
I’m an Apply devotee, but if I were a Samsung consumer and I knew that they took me and its other consumers for granted because of the brand insulator effect and the other two factors Dholakia outlined, it would not install in me much faith in the company. I’m not saying that this is what Samsung is doing, but any company’s crisis response must be robust, authentic and sincere. After a company experiences a crisis it should go out of its way to prove that it can safely create value for its customer. If customers suspect that the only thing that matters to a company during a crisis is self-preservation, the brand will take a hit despite how big the company is.
We can say that a robust crisis response might, at the very least, allow for two-way communication and encourage feedback between the beleaguered company and its customers. Some scholars argue that blogs can be used to robustly manage communication before, during, and after a crisis occurs. Blogs can be used to inform and collect information (i.e. in threaded comments) about solutions that may solve the problem.
In Managing Turbulence in the Blogosphere: Evaluating the Blog-Mediated Crisis Communication Model with the American Red Cross, B.F. Lui, J. Yan, R. Briones, and B. Kuch suggest that publics seek out blogs for crisis information because bloggers can circumvent mass media and communicate directly with those publics—research even suggests that some people even think blogs are more credible than the traditional news media. In another journal article, F. Schultz, S. Utz, and A Gortiz argue that blogs are better aligned with the ideal of two-way communication during crises than the traditional media because they’re “regarded as more interactive, dialogic, authentic, and credible. They are able to reach large audiences and enable recipients to answer or comment on the perceived messages in a comfortable way.”
Why have I gone on this tangent about blogs and crisis responses, and how does this relate to the Samsung crisis in particular? Correct me if I am wrong, but Samsung does not have a blog. It does, however, have an online newsletter called “Samsung Newsroom”. On October 11, 2016 the Samsung Newsroom published an article announcing that the company has asked its global partners to stop sales of the Note7 until further investigation takes place. On September 10, 2016, the newsletter featured an article titled, “Samsung Urges Galaxy Note7 Users to Immediately Participate in the Replacement Program”. On September 2, 2016 it was an article titled “Samsung Will Replace Current Note7 With New One”.
The problem I have with the “Samsung Newsroom” is that although it allows you to share these articles, it does not allow consumers to comment or interact with the company. Now, Samsung may very well be having these sorts of dialogues with customers elsewhere, like on their social media platforms, but a company as large as Samsung certainly has the wherewithal to have this capability on all of their communication channels. Crisis communication scholars tend to agree that a robust crisis response involves the company listening and interacting with publics on as much channels as possible.
It would surprise me that any company thinks it can respond to a crisis in a half-assed way because it thinks its brand is too big to fail.