Product Recalls and Bans.. (Yes, it’s a bit work related)

So yes; I’ve probably been posting about tat for a while (or random metaphors/analogies), so have a question I’ve been asked. It’s a little bit short (because I have been working on it whilst doing the day job), but fuck it. Here you go.

“Over the past few years, companies have been forced to issue many more product recalls. This trend is driven partly by changes in legislation and the manufacturing process, partly by changes in consumer behaviour. What should we do to address this?

As the question notes, product recalls are driven by a variety of factors; from changes in customer preconception, to societal pressures, to basic defects.

If I were to assess the notion of recalls, I would first have to frame the problem. A DTI study in 2000 (found here), found that (as, I imagine, most would suspect) the biggest problem is due to actual product defects – things being physically wrong with the product. Electrical fault accounted for 46% of the recalls.

And, as the study goes on to outline, the recalls occur more frequently with price perceptions (items under £10 have under a 10% recall rate). Get past £10, and defect recalls occur far more frequently.

These two pieces of information create the principal insight. If your product is liable to cost over £10, then clearly the manufacturing process and testing is of paramount importance. Additionally, if your product utilises electricity or could be choked on by little people, care must be taken to pre-test ahead of all else.

However, if I was to try and address the problem over every market and attempt to apply a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the problem, I would research a number of case studies, ranging across a variety of industries. From FMCG problems, white good manufacturers, the auto industry, the pharmeuticals and more besides.

These case studies would provide part of a factual base in order to learn how to address the problem, as well as helping to pre-empt any problems contained within certain types of organisations.

Given the need for those who produce programmes for the computer to beta test, surely it should apply to other industries? One virus or glitch can fuck you in the eyes of the consumer. And you don’t want to do that to a consumer that has more power to broadcast just how much you fucked with them. No more slow moving, silent monoliths.

Of course, to be entirely honest, there is a certain sense of chaos surrounding the legislative procedure, as well as no way of knowing which way public opinion will swing about a certain product or service (take Bernard Matthews ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ as a prime example of this).

But certainly, I believe doing this research and avidly pre-testing, testing, testing after launch and not rushing products through R&D is crucial if one is not to end up with mass recalls and a huge dent in company reputation.

If I was a consultancy, that’s what I’d suggest. Do your homework, test thoroughly and above all else, hire a a good PR department that is quick on the draw; because no-one can legislate for changing demands and thinking.

Additionally (and Shel Israel would agree), get a company blog; you can instantly get involved with a direct dialogue with your consumer and head recalls off at the pass. If you are a big multinational, a PR company is a must though; you run the risk of your corporate blog getting swamped (especially if it is a mass recall).

That’s what I’d do. How about you, faithful readers?