Cadbury Schweppes : Exposing flakiness
News (non)management encourages bad impressions.
Cadbury, the UK-based confectionery giant, reveals flaws in its online organisation through its lack of response to adverse news.
Cadbury has withdrawn 11 products from major markets in Asia/Pacific and confirmed that milk from a Chinese factory was contaminated with melamine. The story was widely reported online after it broke on Monday (29 September), with leading news sites such as the BBC, Sky and CNN covering it. More than 24 hours later there was no mention or response posted on Cadbury’s global site either on the home page or in information for investors and the media. The Australia corporate country site was similarly devoid of news.
The worldwide contacts and websites locator on the global site is equally unhelpful to anyone attempting to check for information on country and brand sites. For example, choosing ‘Australia’ and ‘Cadbury Dairy Milk’ (a country/product affected by the scare) from the dropdown menus returns “No results were found for your search”; the other markets affected by the withdrawal (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan) are not included in the country options. The country corporate site for Singapore (the location of a company source quoted in the news reports) leads to a single-page Cadbury Schweppes branded statement about the demerger of the business earlier in 2008.
Cadbury’s decision to ignore the web as an information platform for consumers and the public seems likely to backfire doubly in terms of reputation management. While it was seemingly happy to content itself with short statements and quotes to the conventional offline media, those media were spreading the story through their online editions rapidly and globally and with as much – or as little – of Cadbury’s take on the issue as they chose to include. From there, readers could spread the story via e-mail or any number of news-sharing options such as diggit. The end result? Anxiety in Cadbury consumers in regions completely unaffected by the incident. Many will look up the Cadbury site for facts and reassurance, and find not even an official statement. Investors and journalists are similarly left to their speculations.
The double blow comes from the impression created by what enquirers will find on the site if they decide to try their luck down the well-signposted local country or brand route. The worldwide locator promises much but quickly throws up redundant options and outdated, wrongly branded pages that suggest not so much a demerged company as one that has fallen apart.http://www.cadbury.com/Pages/Home.aspx
First published on 30 September, 2008