Some of the most outrageous crises have come out of 2020, and with everything else that has been going on (some deeming recent world events to be crises themselves), it’s time to reflect on what has happened and work on preventing these mistakes from making a re-run.

From offensive adverts to slogans gone wrong, a crisis can really help your brand identify some of its biggest blunders and help own up to its mistakes.

Whether the social media crisis happened to your own brand, or to someone else’s, the best way to learn is from identifying mistakes.

Here, the team at amaSocial reveal the top three lessons from 2020’s social media crises that all brands can learn from:

Lesson #1: Embrace transformation and inclusivity

This should go without saying, but judging from the crises that have come out in recent years, it seems like some brands are finding this to be a hard lesson to learn. Take South African retail pharmacy company Clicks. The brand very recently encountered a crisis on Twitter after it released an ad on its website that was intended to celebrate different hair types.

However, the ad depicted black women as having “dry and damaged” hair while white women were labelled as having “fine and flat” or “normal” hair.

Image sourced from IOL

Needless to say, the ad broke out on Twitter and backlash was harsh. Although the retail and pharmacy company immediately sent out an apology, that was not enough. The damage had already been done.

The lesson? Brands need to learn how to embrace transformation and diversity by being inclusive in the marketing department. This means making equal opportunities for employees a priority and putting more women and persons of colour in higher positions. Had this been the case, the ad never would have made it to the website, as there would have been input from people who are representative of the ad.

According to The South African Women Lawyers Association, in an article by IOL, there are three measures Clicks now needs to take in order to rectify the situation:

1. Practice constitutional values of equality and dignity in their work culture as well as in their programmes across all stores.
2. Identify areas that have not been transformed and that are not inclusive in marketing departments and advertising agencies.
3. Support social initiatives that set out to build the self-esteem, dignity and identity of young, black, South African girls.

Lesson #2: Make a good comeback

Earlier this February, Nando’s took (another) swing at competitor KFC with a play on words of the brand’s slogan, ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’. The wordplay insinuated that the fast-food franchise wasn’t following the protocol surrounding the pandemic, where social distancing, touching your face and being close to germs is a big ‘no-no’.

The lesson? Make sure that the only one making jokes about your brand is you. When it comes down to it, it can be quite embarrassing to have people laughing at you because of something your competitor said.

If this is the case, don’t be a sore loser. Rather make a good comeback. Humour is a great way to relate and entertain your audience, and if they say that you’re a good sport, they’ll also see your brand in a positive light.

That’s why, as a brand, you should rise above the situation and come up with an even funnier ad, slogan or campaign as a response. If humour is not part of your brand’s identity or voice, you can also utilise the event by taking what your competitor has said and improving on your brand’s advertising and campaigns.

This could be done by either releasing an ad about ‘staying safe’ or taking a jab at yourself and how your brand has taken stricter measures to remain hygienic.

Additionally, prevention is sometimes better than cure, and having a good social media monitoring tool to help will definitely prevent a crisis from escalating.

“Enlisting a social media monitoring service gives you the benefit of seeing a crisis as it happens and watching it unfold. Your brand is alerted to a situation as it’s happening, meaning all you have to do is jump in and respond accordingly — whether you’re responding directly to the crisis or taking care of your consumers, there are no pitfalls to utilising this service,” says Petrumarié Jacobs, Client and Brand Experience Manager at amaSocial.

Lesson #3: Time doesn’t heal all wounds

People never forget, and this is proven by Dis-Chem’s blackface fiasco in February (apparently a very busy time for social media crises), which resurfaced during the Clicks blunder on Twitter. Many people were talking about boycotting Clicks, but then quite a number of users on Twitter turned up to remind them that Dis-Chem also made a big mistake earlier this year.

Shortly after Dis-Chem’s incident, the pharmacy maintained that the alleged blackface on the mannequin was just a “bad makeup job”, and no measures were taken to resolve the issue beyond an apology.

“When Business Insider SA visited the branch on Friday afternoon, the display had been disassembled; however, they reported that evidence of it could still be seen throughout the store,” says Toni Jaye Singer in an article for TimesLIVE.

The lesson? Although your brand’s intentions for a campaign may be good, it’s important to avoid stereotypes when implementing anything that has to do with different cultures, ethnicities, races and genders. The blackface alone was a huge problem, but the mannequin also adorned seemingly ‘stereotypical’ fashion for the pharmaceutical company’s campaign, which aimed to emphasise ‘South African beauty’.

In this case, it’s best to do thorough research, and having an inclusive team can definitely help. This just shows how important it is for companies to have diverse marketing departments, with varying inputs and ideas. And when something does go wrong, go beyond the apology and implement measures that will prevent similar crises from arising in future.

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