Is it just me, or has the world of marketing been going a little too well over the past few weeks? It seems as though there was a faint ticking sound coming from the marketing campaign time bomb, just waiting to blow.

Since the unfortunate airing of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial or the United Airlines passenger mishap, there really hasn’t been any exciting marketing and PR news. Well, that all changed last week when Bedrock Detroit decided to launch its “See Detroit Like We Do” campaign. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m pleased that another campaign finally fell through the cracks, but you must agree that it was long overdue.

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, Bedrock Detroit placed a sign with the slogan “See Detroit Like We Do,” that filled the windows along the ground level of a building in downtown Detroit. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong. The photograph featured mostly white individuals in a city that is widely known for its diverse culture.

 

Yikes! Now What?

How companies handle unfortunate situations like the Bedrock Campaign is crucial for their ongoing success. Luckily, Dan Gilbert, founder of Bedrock Detroit and Quicken Loans, was able to address the situation with both speed and grace. “We screwed up badly the graphic package that was partially installed on the retail windows of the first floor of the Vinton Building, in downtown Detroit,” Gilbert said in an open letter posted on Bedrock Detroit’s Facebook page.

“Although not intended to create the kind of feelings it did, the slogan/statement we used on these graphics was tone deaf, in poor taste and does not reflect a single value or philosophy that we stand for at Bedrock Development or in our entire Family of companies,” the letter said. “We have killed the ‘See Detroit Like We Do’ campaign.” It looks like someone payed attention in public relations class! Bravo, Dan.

 

So, What Did We Learn?

The mistakes that companies make can be very detrimental to both their finances and public image. This is where the PR department must weigh its options; to act or not to act—that is the question.

  1. Act. And act quickly. When bad news hits you directly, you need to respond immediately.
  2. Give your organization a face. At this point you’re already dealing with bad publicity, so you want to present your company as one which people can connect with.
  3. Present the facts. Considering the media driven world we live in, many situations become twisted and can make your situation out to be worse than it is, so act truthfully.
  4. Be transparent. Allowing people to see how and why things went wrong can help your image in the future.
  5. Own up to your mistakes. Aside from acting quickly, this might be the most important step. People don’t want to hear the run-around of excuses. Admit your faults and move on.
  6. Be sincere. Most people can cut through a lot of business talk and empty words. If they can hear sincerity, they are more likely to be forgiving.

While it is somewhat unsettling to see our fellow marketers make these mistakes, it’s an eye-opening experience for anyone involved—particularly the audience. Put yourself in their shoes; see your message through their eyes. You don’t want to be the one to set off that ticking time bomb.