Arby’s No Longer Serves Police Officers

arbys_redux_logo_detailArby’s made national headlines this week, and it was not for their delicious curly fries. A Pembroke Pines (Florida) restaurant employee refused to serve a police officer at a drive through, and the Pembroke Pines Police Chief did not take kindly to that news. The chief contacted Arby’s corporate executives directly and demanded an apology. Arby’s issued a public statement and apologized for the employee’s actions, but from a public relations perspective that’s like putting a band-aid on a broken window. Arby’s needs a lesson in crisis communications, and from observing the way they handled this situation it’s clear their public relations team was blindsided by this unexpected event. The online community is threatening to boycott their brand, and the company has done very little to assure customers that the issue is being resolved.

This story has spread like wildfire on social media, and from what I’ve observed the company is being more reactive than proactive with their communications efforts. Arby’s hasn’t made a post on their Facebook page since August 29, and at the very least they could have issued a statement on social media explaining the situation, apologizing and offering ways to alleviate the situation. Was the employee fired? What is being done about it? Why should we ever eat at Arby’s again? The company is keeping the public in the dark when they should be acting as transparent and honest as possible. More proactive steps are necessary to educate and inform the public, but instead they’ve allowed the media and their own customer base to dominate the discussions that are happening across social media. Right now Arby’s is more interested in promoting their new “sliders” on all of their social media channels instead of doing some much needed damage control.

Corporations are not invincible. There comes a time when a brand will come under fire when they least expect it, and a crisis communications plan needs to be in place for trying times like this. The power of the web should not be underestimated. In less than 24 hours the entire nation caught wind of this story. A simple interaction between a fast food worker and a police officer is now threatening to tear apart a well-established brand, and the company expects this to just blow over. The internet never forgets, and with how much cops like fast food Arby’s is also in jeopardy of losing a large percentage of their customers.

“All Cops Eat Free for a Day” would be a simple campaign Arby’s could start to earn back the trust of the public. A simple statement will not cut it. A call to the police chief is not sufficient. This story has legs, and right now it’s outrunning the Arby’s brand in every possible way.

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Yahoo Can Keep Buying, But It Won’t Help Their Image Problem

yahoo_purple_large-prvYahoo is vying to stay relevant in this social media centric world, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. So desperate in fact, that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012 she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.

While Marissa makes it rain in hopes of getting Yahoo her groove back, she’s failing to realize how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of contemporary web culture. When I think of Yahoo, AOL comes to mind. They are massive tech companies with the resources needed to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to jump on the social media/mobile bandwagon.

I’ll go out on a limb and say the Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at most. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger, coveted demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions younger generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective brands and users. These companies weren’t afraid to meet the changing digital landscape head-on, and Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge.

To ultimately fix this image problem, I’d first avoid making any other $1 billion acquisitions. Embrace the existing and acquired products and services you now have, and focus on improving these products to meet the changing needs of your users. If the products and services you offer are the best they can possibly be, the image problem will eventually fix itself.

Jason Collins And The NBA’s Unique Branding Opportunity

adcf2291e8d33807121fcabed6e692b8If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today, you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year stint as a professional basketball player in the NBA, but today he became the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American professional team sport.

For the professional sporting community, this announcement couldn’t have come any sooner. While American society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been this social stigma surrounding homosexuality within professional sports. The barrier that once stood is diminished, and today Collins will go down in history not as a professional basketball player, but as a  Jackie Robinson type who forever changed the face of professional sports.

With this story of courage and strength pulling at the heart strings of fans, players and supporters of equality, the NBA possesses a unique opportunity to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand. I’m not encouraging the NBA to exploit this man’s heroic story for financial gain, I just believe it’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the NBA to lead the conversation surrounding this highly controversial topic. Organizations are continually searching for a worthy cause to stand behind, and the NBA should use this inspirational story as a way to align its brand with progressive values that are becoming more prevalent in modern society.

It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT equality and the NBA is a brand that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Strongly supporting Collins and the overarching cause will show the world that the world’s most prolific basketball brand is synonymous with authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, this story surrounding Collins and the NBA is something special. Collins finally gets to live the life he’s always wanted, and the NBA has a once in a lifetime opportunity to redefine its brand for the better.