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.
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.
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That's an excellent example, Daniel. I actually covered that in another article - "New lessons from 6 tweets gone wrong."
What about AFLAC? They apologized for a Twitter gaffe by then-spokesperson Gilbert Gottfried and pledged 100 million yen to disaster relief in Japan. Then in 6 weeks they turned the search for a new spokesduck into PR and branding bonanza. Its a classic case of making lemonade from lemons and was done principally online and through social media.
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