Accidental Micturation

Why does Procter & Gamble’s response to the Pamper’s Dry Max issue remind us of the Audi/Toyota problem?  Because there’s no good way to suggest your customers are wrong in linking their problems to your product without causing offense.  Even though, P&G has mostly responded in a sensitive, restrained way, one quote in a Business Week article sums up the problem: “By issuing a press release calling the allegations “completely false,” the company “basically called their core customers liars…”  Procter & Gamble wants the world to know that reports of increased diaper rash from the new Dry max technology are untrue,  even deliberate falsehoods by plaintiffs’ attorneys, cloth diaper adherents, fans of their competitors and customers who just hate change.  It appears they were particularly spooked by a false recall rumor.

If Nestle’s attempt to call Greenpeace on social media distortions of its actions on palm oil was round one, then the Dry Max story is perhaps round two in the effort to establish a customer-friendly style of corporate self-defense in social networks.  We think both these examples do illustrate one principle, which is that any note of paranoid victimhood by large multinationals, a tone of high dudgeon, in which companies describe themselves as “insulted,” no matter how well grounded, sets the wrong tone.  Social networks are just the latest confirmation of Churchill’s dictum that a “lie is halfway round the world before the truth has its boots on.”  Bristling at your customers doesn’t seem to be the best answer.  Fortunately, P&G, like Nestle, has the courage and the stamina to work its way through to a better answer.  In future, they will get there faster.

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