September 5, 2007

missing the toy boat

In the case of a public relations crisis, you can face the issue head on or you can ignore it and hope it dies away if you don't call attention to it. For more than a month, the news has featured multiple stories about multiple recalls of Mattel toys made in China and contaminated with lead paint - more than 20 million as far as I can tell from some quick Google searches. The textbook for brilliant handling of a public relations crisis was written 25 years ago. I don't think Mattel ever got a copy. In September of 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died from ingesting tainted Tylenol capsules. Tylenol's market share dropped to 8%, and most analysts declared the brand a goner. Tylenol not only recalled all of their products immediately, but they also launched a massive advertising and pr campaign. Their aggressive and blunt handling of the situation garnered the company wide praise, and regained the publics' trust. In less than a year, their market share had been recovered. (It turned out to be the result of product tampering on store shelves, though the case remains unsolved.) To my knowledge, noone has died from the Mattel situation. But the scale of the recall is vast and the news just seems to keep on coming. If you go to the Mattel website, there is a link in the lower corner to recall information. And to their credit, that link takes you to a great deal of information. However, this seems bigger than a corner link on a website, and after a month it feels as though we're still waiting to hear from Mattel. My point is not that Mattel isn't doing the right thing as far as recalling products and trying to find out if there are more products out there that need additional action. My point is that the lack of any noticeable advertising and pr on the issue makes it appear as though they may not be doing enough, even though they may very well be. I'm not even a parent with any kids or any toys - and I find myself feeling irked. I can only imagine what the parents out there are thinking. What Mattel is thinking, on the other hand, I have no idea.

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