The Best Defense Is Sometimes A Marketing Offensive

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While blogger Dave Choate is on vacation, we’ll be digging up some gems from PointBlank’s past. Enjoy!

It’s one thing to use your public relations and marketing efforts to craft a shield against criticism. It’s another things to use that shield to beat your critics into submission, as Taco Bell has recently done with the lawsuits against its claims that it uses real beef in its tacos.

Before I get into the meat of this post—pun intended!—I would like to note that I’m not advocating a scorched earth strategy for every business responding to criticism, legitimate or otherwise. I do think that in the right situation, it can be a brilliant move.

Take Taco Bell. They were hit with a lawsuit from a customer who claimed the beef in their tacos was less than 50 percent actual beef, with the rest of it a appetizing mishmash of chemicals, fillers and spices. A company with a less spirited marketing and PR  team might have struggled to counter the lawsuit, which was ultimately dropped.

Taco Bell, on the other hand, aggressively defended itself. Their budget is way out of the realm of what most companies can spend—to the tune of $3-4 million—but the lesson is an important one. If someone’s attacking the integrity of your product, striking back quickly can work.

In the case of the Yum! Brands giant, they countered with an advertising blitz that declared their beef was 88 percent meat and 12 percent seasonings, delivering ingredient lists and generally just calling the lawsuit a bunch of malarkey. This tactic garnered significant public support, and now the fast food titan is continuing its blitz, asking for an apology from the woman who filed the lawsuit and her attorneys and asserted that they’ve changed nothing about their products or marketing.

Time will tell whether the company is overreaching with this strategy, but it underscores the fact that the best defense really can be a good offense. Right or wrong, companies that react timidly to their own mistakes in the public sphere tend to take more of a beating than the Taco Bells of the world, who can come to dominate discussion about the latest controversy.

For that reason alone, it’s a strategy worth exploring for your company. What do you think?

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