From my observation and experience having handled FMCG brands in an agency,
what is startling though is that most consumers are those of the lower income
group – mainly black – (don’t worry, I am not starting a racial issue with this
saga), considering my previous knowledge of its target audience. 

Enterprise Foods is a premium brand of Tiger Brands in the ready-to-eat meat
category and Bokkie was more of a cheaper product, for the lower income group.
Things change and products do evolve indeed.

Crisis strategy

Nevertheless, I can imagine how the company is beside itself, trying to water
down the fire that has suddenly erupted. Hard at work, it’s implementing a
crisis strategy to handle this nightmare, and at the same time in pursuit of
the culprit caught napping. Someone is supping champagne from their ‘last
chance bar’ as we speak. Heads are going to roll.

Whilst the company is busy with their internal processes and conducting their
own tests on the foods affected since this ‘listeria outbreak’ was traced back to
the Enterprise Foods products –the company really needs to ascertain these
claims, remain calm and have a blitzkrieg of ongoing communique to its
consumers and partners.

I must commend their swift response on recalling all the products from the
shelves from all the retailers. This morning I woke up to empty shelves of
Enterprise and Bokkie products in my nearby supermarket in the cold meat
section. It is indeed remarkable. But then again I thought – if it is still so
– the company also prepares ready-to-eat meats for other retailers under the
no-name brand. This ripple effect on other no-name brands of certain retailers
is worrying. Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? Are
they still preparing processed foods for other retailers from the same stash?
Let’s hope not, or it could be cataclysmically nightmarish.

Futuristic approach

So, Enterprise Foods has many ways to look at this situation. In my opinion,
the approach to this crisis is a simple one. Their crisis management strategy
needs to put emphasis on its futuristic approach. The situation faced now is
that a serious crisis has erupted, consumers are disappointed and demanding
their money back, there is a serious health scare which got the health Minister
involved, it is alleged that listeriosis has claimed a number of people’s lives
and something needs to be done. 

The noblest thing to do is for the brand to humble itself in the face of their
consumers. To change the mindset of the consumer in how the brand is viewed
presently and in future, will depend on how well the company informs the
consumer and uses the different platforms to communicate and most
crucially, how it communicates. Acting upon the promises to
consumers and not merely pulling a PR stunt by just talking, will be a
determining factor for the brand’s reputation.

In my view the company is lucky that this issue is somehow regionally
concentrated, i.e. it is in Limpopo, Free State and Gauteng provinces,
obviously overspilling to other provinces wherein there’s a small footprint of
distribution. I noticed that reactions from consumers of the different
provinces differ. Thus, this warrants an implementation plan that is

One size fits all
approach won’t do

Communiqué to the various consumers in the different provinces, in a tone that
speaks to the social structures and cultural values, should be key and
considered. In essence, humility in the brands communiqué will make or break
the brand. A one size fits all approach is out of the question. The company is
faced with pockets of various audiences to target and communicate to, viz;
employees, consumers, government and partners in the health and food industry
boards. A onesie won’t do!

Unless, if they come up with a plan of maintaining profits for the products,
things aren’t looking good. The company should look into reimbursing all the
consumers with no questions asked, issue consumers with vouchers or 50%
discounted voucher for a month, demonstrate to consumers step by step process
of how the ‘new batch of product’ is made through public education to guarantee
that the product is safe – as a tactic to win back consumer trust. 

It would also be prudent and they’d gain credibility with consumers if the
company would assist in settling the account of all those patients admitted or
treated for this ‘listeriosis’ – this act of kindness would go a very long way.
Remember, the image of the brand is at stake. Don’t compromise, be

Profits declining

The company should also avoid putting emphasis on products affected, and which
aren’t. It sounds defensive. They should know better how the consumer thinks.
Any product with Enterprise name on it right now is not good to eat. Period.
Even if it had Enterprise juice and it wasn’t affected, the consumer would shun
it. Deal with the crisis at hand.

Enterprise Foods will witness profits declining sharply for ready-to-eat meat
category products, and unavoidably, lack of trust in the product (and brand)
and a possible great trek of its loyal consumers to competitors products. Also,
it’s not only about circumventing the now, but dealing with the reputation of
the brand and winning back consumer trust. 

Remember, we worried about the future now, thus, trust is a
pertinent issue with consumers in this situation, if the brand wants to retain
its glory as a premium brand going forward. Once the dust has settled it’s not
going to be about the product, but the reputation of the brand. 

They’ll forgive but
they won’t forget

Loyal Enterprise customers would care to be enlightened on what and how this
mishap occurred. Communicating findings of test results in terms of what went
wrong would be necessary as part of building the trust, as much as the
communication of this ‘outbreak’ has played itself in the media. I suppose this
is going to be a grave test. 

Ongoing communication for the next two months will be crucial and could
circumvent the brand’s image if things are handled well in these early stages
and a well-greased plan is implemented.

People forgive, they don’t forget. If consumers have to forgive, it would
depend on how they are treated in times of this crisis – you treat them with
respect and humility, they will forget, but if there’s an air of arrogance in
how the matter is handled, forget about the keeping brand, let alone making
profit margins. 

Don’t forget to manage those DJ’s and presenters’ comments in the mainstream
mediums (and social mediums) on the issue, they are influential. 

If all else fails, there’s still an option… change the brand’s name and start

Let’s hope the competitor will not capitalise on this tragedy to score consumer
points by coming up with pull strategies!