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Product recalls: crisis management

Product recalls present a unique challenge to an organisation; effective handling is essential if an organisation is to protect its reputation. Let’s look at three product recall case studies.


The Note 7 was released in August 2016 and was widely praised and purchased. Reports quickly emerged of the phone over-heating and in some instances bursting into flames.

The company acted quickly; announced a global product recall on 2nd September, spent large sums fixing the problem and issued replacements all in the same month. They claimed the fault lay with a damaged batch of batteries from just one supplier. They appeared to be putting customer safety ahead of profits, were quick to fix the problem and were praised for doing so. A seamless, if expensive, text book handling of a crisis from one of the world’s richest companies.

Then the replacement phones started catching fire. The recall started again and production ceased. Replacing a faulty product swiftly is one thing but when the replacement fixes nothing it makes the company look at best unfortunate and at worst incompetent. Read more about this incident.


When in 2013, horsemeat was found in meat products sold in supermarkets it was huge news. The scandal emerged when Irish food inspectors discovered horsemeat in frozen beef burgers sold by Iceland and Lidl. The sales of frozen burgers and other products plunged. Read more about food incidents.


Three separate but related recalls of automobiles by Toyota Motor Corporation occurred at the end of 2009 and start of 2010. The recalls came after reports that several vehicles experienced unintended acceleration.

It was widely considered that the recalls were botched as the company allowed the media and wider public to set the news agenda. One of the reasons for this was Toyota had huge problems identifying the source of the problems. One recall, covering over 4 million cars, involved sticky accelerator pedals. Later on, Toyota recalled 5.4 million cars whose pedals could get stuck on floor mats. Then Toyota said these were software problems.

From a PR perspective this meant that Toyota was constantly playing catch-up and never seemed to take control of the story.


At Crisis Solutions we teach skills and techniques that can sustain your reputation during product recalls. We do this through crisis simulations and crisis exercises, as well as training and advice on the preparation of crisis and business continuity plans.

We also provide media training that will help you deliver timely and consistent messages that are in touch with the public mood.

Crisis response is fundamentally about actions and communications. We teach both.


Whichever threats may jeopardise your business - at Crisis Solutions we can help you prepare