Lessons on how getting busted can lead to doing the right thing

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

A colleague of ours came in one morning and told us how she got busted by the cops.  I KNEW it!  No one can be that nice and that smart and not have something insidious lurking below the surface.  Illegal smuggling ring? Money laundering?  Armed robbery?  Nope, she made an illegal left hand turn.  After laughing over the fact that someone actually got CAUGHT doing that she went into detail on how she managed to escape without a huge penalty (did you know you could lose 3 points for that tiny traffic infraction?)  

First the cop gave her a fact-based explanation of her wrong doing.  Rather than snort with derision and get all this-is-another-example-of-the-man-trying-to-bring-me-down our colleague saw an opportunity to get out of this unscathed.  She swallowed a little pride and, in an agreeable tone, said she’s sorry, admitted what she did was wrong and that she won’t do it again.  She did the right thing.  Happy cop.  Happy driver.  No points. 

So what does this have to do with brands?  Think of the cop as the consumer and the driver as the brand.  The consumer is always watching, waiting for a brand to screw up.  When a brand does something wrong and gets busted by the consumer, it’s easy to knee-jerk react.  But there is massive opportunity to set things right.   

Brands that did a great job of setting things right with consumers: Tylenol – the original brand to do it right, Netflix – reversed their price decision, Domino’s pizza – admitted the crust tastes like cardboard. 

Brands in denial that have clearly been told by consumer: Sears, Labatt Blue, Mickey D’s (listened to a “cop” named Morgan Spurlock). 

The lesson to brands:  be friendly, be honest, promptly respond….and don’t do it again.