3 epic PR fiascos that will dwarf United Airlines row

By Vipul Jadhav, director, client services, Centric DXB

Within 24 hours of allowing aviation police to violently remove a passenger from his paid-for seat, nearly $1 billion worth of United Airlines’ stock value was wiped off from the market. As always, the CEO came out with a statement only when money was on the line but not during the social media outrage and memes.

But history continues to repeat itself, relentlessly. While the United Airlines row saw its fair share of corporate public-relations mishap, below are some of the more cringeworthy PR fails than this one:

Wronged by the Bank of America? Pay Your Own Legal Fees

For years, Bank of America (BoA) tried their best to position themselves as a bank for the people. In 2006, San Francisco resident Matthew Shinnick sold a bike on Craigslist and visited his neighborhood outlet of BoA to verify the cheque he had received.

After the rep from BoA confirmed the validity of the cheque and recommended the customer sign off on it, the staff had the customer arrested for passing a bad cheque. He was jailed, fought the arrest in court, won and was denied compensation for the emotional turmoil caused.

In the aftermath of BoA’s terrible counter the situation, over $10 million in customer accounts were closed in protest. Five years later, homeowner foreclosed a BoA branch after it wrongfully evicted him from his home. After taking them to court and winning, the branch closed as retaliation for refusing to pay his legal bills. Two situations of denying the recompense for legal bills resulted in millions lost literally and in time.

Bucket List Before Dying? Share with Malaysian Airlines

Not long after losing MH370 and MH17, Malaysian Airlines launched a campaign titled “My Ultimate Bucket List” and asked its customers what they want to do before they die. Just when the news cycle around the lost planes died down, this shoved them back in the spotlight.

Chevron Nearly Killed You? Here’s a coupon for Pizza

Three years ago, Chevron’s hydraulic fracturing well exploded in rural Dunkard Township and burned for four days straight. According to a report from Newsweek, “The flames that billowed out of the Marcellus Shale natural gas well were so hot they caused a nearby propane truck to explode, and first responders were forced to retreat to avoid injury.

The fire burned for four days, and Chevron currently has tanks of water standing by in case it reignites. Of the twenty contractors on the well site, one is still missing, and is presumed dead.” As a response to the death of contractors and the negligence over the entire fiasco, Chevron responded in the most blatantly tone deaf manner: with free pizza coupons.

So count yourself lucky if your brand or client isn’t this insensitive.

Vipul Jadhav is the director of client services for Centric DXB, a Dubai-based full service agency that serves brands such as DELL, ASUS, and Falcon Aviation. He can be reached on vipul.jadhav@centric.ae

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.

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