The etymology of "apology"
As established in my previous article, "New lessons from 6 tweets gone wrong," all brands are vulnerable to making mistakes. It is how brands deal with mishaps that demonstrate the true character of the company. The common reaction to any mistake is an apology; however, not all people (and brands, for that matter) define "apology" in the same manner.
Like most words in the English language, the connotations associated with the word "apology" have evolved throughout the course of history -- leaving the modern interpretation of the word up to those who choose to ponder it.
In "The apology of Socrates," Plato used the word apology to indicate defense. The apology of Socrates is, in fact, a retelling of Socrates' masterful oratory before the court that would later condemn him to death.
For more insights into the latest do's and don'ts of online brand marketing, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, Sept. 11-14. Request your invitation today
During the Middle Ages, to apologize was to simply make an excuse in passing. Beginning with the Renaissance through the turn of the century, the term apology took on religious meaning as it became synonymous with the word pardon.
Today, the weight and definition of the word apology varies according to the user, and brands are no exception to this phenomenon. Brands, pressured by consumers, are often compelled to apologize when serious mistakes are made. Some brand apologies are clearly defensive reactions while others come off as half-hearted excuses. On occasion, a brand will beg for forgiveness with true sincerity.
Here is a look at the art of the brand apology as demonstrated recently by some of the biggest brands in the world.