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Mattel Apology Leaves Social Media Toys Unwrapped and Unused

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Over on the WOMMA Facebook Group, Shannon Stairhime has started a conversation about the Mattel situation. In the post, Shannon asks for evaluations of Mattel's performance in building consumer trust. Here's my take: It was a great apology. WOM success? Not even close.


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Over on the WOMMA Facebook Group, Shannon Stairhime has started a conversation about the Mattel situation. In the post, Shannon asks for evaluations of Mattel's performance in building consumer trust by starting a conversation with consumers using WOM (word of mouth) tactics and principles of full disclosure.
Here's my take:
I definitely applaud Mattel CEO Bob Eckert for making what appears to be a sincere apology. I watched the video and thought that it was refreshing to hear. I have to respectfully disagree, though, that Mattel's actions are a triumphant use of WOM in a crisis. They're not.
From a purely tactical perspective, the Mattel site doesn't make it easy to share the video or forward any sort of key messaging to friends. Instead of an easy-to-share and forwardable PDF with a simple list of recalled toys, they have a slew of confusing links that make it difficult to understand exactly which products are being recalled and why.
Other tactics missing in action:
* Where is the forum allowing consumers to talk with one another?
* Where is the message board fully staffed with customer service personnel ready to answer questions?
* Where is the daily blog with updates on the corrective actions they are taking?
* Where are the Mattel representatives or PR folks in commenting on Consumerist, Babycenter.com, Facebook forums, etc. (i.e. *participating* in the conversation?)
Looking at this from a higher-level and more strategic perspective, though, my biggest problem is that this is NOT a conversation. As noble as this straightforward apology is, it's still a one-sided "we tell you the message" monologue, not a conversation or dialogue with customers. If this was a true conversation, Mr. Eckert would have announced the formation of a special panel of parents and other consumers to monitor and watchdog the situation. They would have thrown open the doors of the executive suite and asked, "We're taking action, but we need your help and want your input." Not only would Mattel soon have a panel of advocates and evangelists ready to champion the company's cause, but then you would have a more open, two-way conversation build on dialogue and trust.
None of that has happened, to the best of my knowledge.
Lastly, if this was a true conversation, Mr. Eckert would have started and ended his video by saying, "And if you have any further questions, please call my office at 1-800-XXX-XXXX, where we have specialists ready to answer your questions and concerns about the recalls. I'll even pick up the phone and help out once in a while. I can't answer every question, but I'll do my best."
Great apology. WOM success? Not even close.
What do you think?
Learn more:
Mattel Voluntary Safety Recall microsite
WOMMA Facebook Group
BL Ochman's terrific Marketing Profs post


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With his mantra “it’s about the people, not the technology,” Michael E. Rubin serves as the Social Media Strategist for Fifth Third Bank. As one of the first employees of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the Social Media Business Council, Michael has made his career helping Fortune 500 brands put Social Media to work.

With more than ten years experience in marketing and PR, Michael has partnered with the world’s leading marketers and industry experts to develop Social Media and Word-Of-Mouth into a mainstream marketing disciplines.

Michael serves on the Advisory Committee of the Institute for Social Media at Cincinnati State University, and has lectured on social media at both the University of Cincinnati College of Business and Leadership Northern Kentucky. He resides in Cincinnati with his wife Pam, dog Ruby, and cat Chainsaw (long story). Last but not least, Michael remains a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and proudly eat hot dogs with ketchup.

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Michael E. Rubin
Call me: 847-370-3421
Email me: merubin@gmail.com
Tweet me: http://twitter.com/merubin
Start here --> http://flavors.me/merubin75

The views expressed in this post are my own and not those of Fifth Third Bank or any of its affiliates or subsidiaries or of any person or organization affiliated with or doing business with Fifth Third Bank.

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Comments

  • by Evan Slater Thu Sep 6, 2007 via blog

    I think you're raising some interesting issues with how Mattel has handled their situation(s). First and foremost, I'll have to disagree a bit in that I find the video rather astonishing in that Eckert spends most of his time asking for people to trust that they're doing what they can to ensure safety and fits in an apology towards the end of the video. But you're right, I do believe that the executives over there aren't sleeping well at night and genuinely feel bad for the pain they've inflicted. I think the questions you're asking are absolutely right, but the reason they're not being addressed is because of how Mattel is approaching the problem. They're embracing "crisis-management" which places them on a constant PR circuit but doesn't lead to finding the honest, genuine, transparent steps they should be taking as an old-trusted friend of American households. Take a look at the post we jotted a few days ago, shortly after the second recall - http://thecword.typepad.com/thecword/2007/08/what-should-mat.html If Mattel had (or would) see themselves as a friend and start acting accordingly, they'd end up placing themselves in a real dialogue with people. They'd end up with a daily blog and conversations where people are, not press-circuits. I think they'd end up with a lot more.

  • by B.L. Ochman Thu Sep 6, 2007 via blog

    Great post Michael and welcome to Daily Fix! on the Mattel microsite, in which Eckert again looks as emotive as a Ken Doll, it says: "Mattel's philosophy is that every employee is responsible for the quality and safety of our products. Mattel has an organization of more than 1,500 people worldwide solely dedicated to the safety, quality and overall integrity of our toys..." So I guess their next story is about the massive firing they have to do to get those people to do their jobs. Here's the bottom line: there's still no reason to believe we can trust Mattel.

  • by CK Thu Sep 6, 2007 via blog

    Folks: Has the apology been posted to YouTube yet? I've not been able to grab it (which amazes me...especially given the recall after recall. Oh yeah, after recall).

  • by Marianne Richmond Thu Sep 6, 2007 via blog

    Great points Michael! Although I agree with you that they could have added some conversational elements to the recall announcement and asked for consumer input... your list is exactly right, the straightforward apology of their CEO and the fact that they set up a microsite contrasts sharply with the manner in which the pet food recall was handled. Interesting aside, you mention BabyCenter which is owned by J&J. I wonder if J&J would use this community in the event of a product recall. I thought they used their blog effectively in the Red Cross lawsuit fray and certainly demonstrated the value of having a corporate blog in place should there be a crisis, PR or otherwise. Marianne

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