Kraft Strikes Cheesy Gold at Super Bowl: A Lesson on Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Meghann Johnsonby Meghann Johnson, Sales Manager, Business Wire Chicago

Crisis communications: two words that can mean success or failure for any organization. No matter what industry your business operates within, there are always threats that can sour public opinion, create a media firestorm, or worse yet, ensnarl your company in legal battles. Given this, crisis communications may be the two scariest words in PR.

But what if companies used information gleaned from crisis situations to improve their value proposition? Or took the opportunity to listen and react to their audiences? Kraft’s Velveeta brand recently did just that.

Kraft’s Super Bowl Meltdown

As reported by AdAge,  in the weeks leading up to this year’s Super Bowl, Velveeta had a shortage of its popular processed cheese product. This dilemma was jokingly dubbed by media as the “Cheesepocalypse” and even birthed its own hashtag. Almost immediately, brand aficionados took to social media to declare their love of the brand, desperately urging Kraft to find a solution. As a result, the topic soon went viral (I even received an email from an old college roommate about the news).

By the time the topic had reached a frenzied level, Kraft’s spokeswoman Jody Moore issued a statement to quell the chatter and put the situation into perspective, stating, “Given the incredible popularity of Velveeta this time of year, it is possible consumers may not be able to find their favorite product on store shelves over the next couple of weeks. Our retail customers are aware of the situation and we expect it to be a short-term issue.”

By February, the crisis had been averted and fans enjoyed their Super Bowl dips. But in the end, the real winner was Kraft, who was able to identify their most active brand advocates (and detractors) by closely monitoring social media conversations. This led to the emergence of so-called “Super Consumers,” or people with a high affinity for Velveeta. Now, Kraft is engaging them further through focus groups and meal diaries in order to understand what ads and products are most appealing to this meaningful market. This could yield big insights and it only took one minor cheese meltdown to happen.
cheese-lo-res

Post-Game Huddle

So what lessons can be learned from the Cheesepocalypse? Number one is that crisis communications is all about planning. It’s important to craft a plan that has time to evolve and change, as opposed to creating a strategy once the wheels are in motion. For tips to ensure your company is prepared, check out this article from Hutchens PR (http://hutchenspr.com/resources/crisis-communications-tips/).

As important as planning may be, however, it can be just as critical to glean insights once the crisis has occurred. In Kraft’s situation, the company identified loyalists on social media who are likely to help grow the brand over time. This is the case for any company in the public spotlight as 43% of online news sharing occurs via social media networks.

Employing a social media monitoring service such as Business Wire’s partner, NUVI, is key for any company needing to identify and understand the voices impacting their brand. And with NUVI, it’s easier than ever before to instantly see what people are saying about you across the Internet, respond to the most important conversations and influence behavior in real time. All brands should be in tune with the conversations taking place about them, in times of crisis or not. And once these influential voices have been identified, savvy companies will employ a robust influencer program to continue to engage and build affinity among their key audiences. For steps on creating, and successfully executing, an influencer program, check out our recent blog post on Bulldog Reporter (http://www.bulldogreporter.com/dailydog/article/thought-leaders/the-age-of-influencers-how-to-engage-influencers-to-amplify-your-pr).

So next time you have a crisis situation, be sure to employ pre- and post-event tactics to ensure you’re able to capitalize on your #Cheesepocalypse moment.

Interested in learning more? Keep following the BusinessWired blog to stay on top of the latest social media updates and please contact us with any specific questions you have!

Meghann Johnson is the Regional Sales Manager for Business Wire Chicago and a devout follower of PR trends. Connect with her via Twitter @MeghannJohnson5.

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