Corporate trust and reputation matter. In fact, they are every company or organization’s most valuable assets. Trust and reputation go hand-in-hand, but they’re determined by a company’s corporate image. Corporate image is the mental picture that pops into your head when an organization is mentioned, and it continually changes based on their circumstances, media coverage, performance, etc. The right image creates a bond of trust between you and the marketplace and allows a company to achieve their goals. A company’s corporate image can change at the drop of a hat, and it did for these companies. Check out the stories of how these 5 companies managed to ruin their corporate image.
The 2013 film “Blackfish” brought widespread public scrutiny to the morality of SeaWorld’s operations. Since the film’s release, the company’s woes have snowballed. Three whales died in 2015 in SeaWorld’s San Antonio, Texas location. While killer whales in the wild typically live 30-50 years, the most recent killer whale to die at SeaWorld didn’t even live to 19. In a likely attempt to polish its tarnished image and multiple protests, the company ended the killer whale show in its San Diego location this past year.
Samsung recalled about 2.5 million Note 7s following complaints that its lithium-ion battery explodes while charging… and in cars, planes, houses, etc. The company also had to recall the first replacements it sent out to consumers after they proved just as dangerous #EPICFAIL. Samsung has taken out full page advertisements in major US newspapers to apologize for the Galaxy Note 7 scandal in which fire-prone batteries forced a global recall of the popular smartphones. The full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post admitted the company fell short on its promise of delivering breakthrough technologies that enrich people’s lives. ‘For this we are truly sorry,’ the company said.
The Gulf oil spill is recognized as the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Within days of the April 20, 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people, underwater cameras revealed the BP pipe was leaking oil and gas on the ocean floor about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana. By the time the well was capped on, 87 days later, an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf. Not cool BP. The fury over BP’s role in the Gulf spill erased the progress BP had made on the corporate responsibility fronts in the previous decade. And to make matters worse, Deepwater Horizon, a movie dedicated to their screw up, just opened in theaters across the country.
Chipotle built its business over the course of more than two decades on a simple premise: being better than the fast-food chains. Its food is locally sourced-when possible- and grown and raised according to strict standards. Its employees are paid well compared to other restaurant chains, and even hourly workers receive benefits like paid vacation time and tuition reimbursement.
The image that Chipotle cultivated over the years led to exceptional results… until their e-coli outbreak. Two separate outbreaks of the bacteria were investigated by the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and public health officials in several states. In the first outbreak 55 people were infected by the foodborne illness in 11 states, of which 21 were hospitalized. The second, smaller outbreak, infected five people from three states, of which one was hospitalized.
Volkswagen’s is proof that a company’s reputation, and fortune, can change due to a single incident. For years, clean diesel was presented as an alternative to hybrid engines and was promoted as a major reason for consumers to buy cars with turbocharged direct injection (TDI) engines. Last year, the EPA accused VW of deliberately designing its vehicles to circumvent emissions tests. This was eventually confirmed, and overnight, the company went from an esteemed automaker to one of the most widely-disliked major companies. Volkswagen sales plummeted as a result, ruining their corporate image… at least for now.
The Bottom Line
Corporate image governs the way the world thinks about the organization. The right image creates a bond of trust between an organization and the marketplace, enables them to achieve their goals, and boost their overall earnings. It’s also important to note that if an organization doesn’t create their own image, we-the marketplace- will create one for them.