How Ambien Avoided a PR Nightmare

Posted on Posted in Branding, Crisis Communications, Social Media

By Alex Altman

Roseanne Barr was in hot water.

She had just fired off a regrettable tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to President Barack Obama.

Her show had been cancelled.

She was being vilified as a racist.

And she needed someone to blame.

Enter Ambien.

“It was 2 in the morning, and I was ambien tweeting,” read her since deleted tweet.

Ambien may have seemed like a natural scapegoat. But the maker of the drug, Sanofi, wasn’t going to let Barr get off easy. A day after its signature sleeping pill was cited, the pharmaceutical company issued a savage response on Twitter.

“While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication,” it tweeted.

Fierce responses can have negative impacts as well, while a swift response is needed, take the time to evaluate if it is worth the potential blowback to give a quick witted, snarky or sarcastic response.

Sanofi isn’t the only company that’s been involuntarily entangled in another person’s PR mess in recent years. Here are a few other brands that snapped back when their name was dragged through the mud.

Skittles: Two months before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump Jr. used an analogy to illustrate his (and his father’s) point that the U.S. should not allow Syrian refugees into the country.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

Skittles’ parent company, Mars, didn’t appreciate the tweet. Hours later, Mars issued a simple response: “Skittles are candy; refugees are people.”

Message received.

TIKI Brand: For most people, the enduring image of last August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville is the mob of angry rally-goers marching the streets with TIKI torches. Repudiating its association with the rally, TIKI Brand issued a strongly worded statement condemning the use of its product in such situations.

“TIKI Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed. We do not support their message or the use of our products in this way.”

Tic Tac: In the Access Hollywood video that went viral a month before the presidential election, a hot mic caught then candidate Donald Trump telling Billy Bush that he might kiss Arianne Zucker.

“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said.

Trump may have only been joking, but Tic Tac wasn’t amused.

Within hours of the tape being released, the brand issued a statement denouncing the Republican presidential nominee’s conduct: “Tic Tac respects all women. We find the recent statements and behavior completely inappropriate and unacceptable.”

 

UPDATE June 11, 2018, 1:19 p.m.: The article has been updated, as not all snarky, quick witted or fast responses are received well. Be cautious of alienating a significant portion of your audience if you choose to step into the middle of any public disagreement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *