J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), which lost $4.3 billion in sales last year, released an apology advertisement this past week to lure shoppers back to its stores. The video was meant to be a public apology and a plea to customers to give the retail chain another chance. We will know in the next few quarters if the strategy worked or not, but it is interesting to note it isn’t the first time a major company is adopting this method to win back public faith.
Here’s a look at five companies that tried the ‘we messed up and we know it’ strategy:
Microsoft released this ad for a new version of the Internet Explorer web browser last year with the tagline “IE sucks…less.” Not the most promising endorsement for a new product, but a candid admission from a tech giant that it had lost a great deal of the market share to competitors who made Explorer feel like a relic from the past.
In 2010, after an embarrassing mass recall of Toyota cars that required fixes for things such as sticky accelerator pedals to malfunctioning brakes, the carmaker launched a massive campaign to say sorry. The ad, which was titled ‘Commitment,’ told viewers that the company had not been living up to the standards expected of it and promised that it had set its house in order.
Domino’s Pizza (NYSE:DPZ)
This ad released by Domino’s at the end of 2009 felt like it was from a competitor trying to trash the brand. Viewers are led through sequences of the pizza being called bland, boring, and cardboard-like, among other stellar terms. This iconic pizza chain, which traces its roots to a small town in Michigan, took brutal shots at itself as a way to convince pizza lovers that they were listening and willing to do whatever it took to find a way back.
Apology ads are not a new phenomenon. Back in 1984, Chrysler released a video with a belligerent Lee Iacocca, its chairman, vowing that the company was back at the top of its game. The chairman effortlessly pulled of a “when you’ve been kicked in the head like we have” line to explain how Chrysler was finding its way back to prosperity. He then reeled of a list of things the company had been doing and then coolly said, “Not bad for a company that had one foot in the grave.”
Who can forget BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward’s “deeply sorry” monologue following the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana — one of the worst environmental disasters that also led to the death of workers on the deepwater drilling platform. Did America accept the apology? Let’s just say Mr. Hayward would still struggle to receive a warm welcome in the country.
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