Tag Archives: AirTran

July 13, 2011 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , ,

Has Rupert Murdoch Raised the Table Stakes for Crisis Response?

Rupert Murdoch has always been a bit of a maverick. And he’s had his share of scandals. And you can’t spend decades in media and publishing, amassing an empire of his size and influence, without also experiencing moments where your hero status (launch of The Daily, anyone?) quickly becomes goat status.

But even I was surprised by the decision to cease publication of the UK’s leading tabloid in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Since then, some have pointed out that this decision is largely a publicity stunt, because NewsCorp will pick up the readership, and transfer the advertising revenue, to other properties.

But it does beg the question about the table stakes when it comes to a crisis. Those of us in that business often counsel clients that their reputation, and even their business, are at stake when it comes to crises. And we’ve certainly seen companies that never really recovered from a large scale event – ValuJet/AirTran, Lehman Brothers and Exxon, to name a few. But it’s rare to see a company decide to just close its doors in the wake of a scandal.

Does Murdoch’s decision to just close up shop, displacing many innocent employees in the process, create a new world order where the table stakes are even higher in a crisis? Or will the world view this much like the ValuJet changing its name to AirTran scenario?

September 15, 2010 | cwinters | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A rose, or a sweetener, by any other name…

Have you heard about the Corn Refiners Association petitioning the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup? Apparently, they think calling it corn sugar will help remove the stigma that high fructose corn syrup is unhealthy, despite links between HFCS’ metabolic effects and obesity. I guess their re-education campaign isn’t working so well, despite spending big bucks on TV ads and other attempts to change America’s point of view.

Sometimes name changes make sense. Companies grow via acquisition and have too many different operating names. A division of a Company becomes the leading brand, and the corporate entity wants to align itself with the marquis brand. The Company name no longer reflects the evolution of the business. (And even that can be questionable…like Radio Shack’s preference for “The Shack” ). Sometimes, a Company adopts the monikers that are used by its constituents rather than fight the uphill battle of constant name corrections – FedEx did it, Coca-Cola didn’t.

But changing a name to change perception? Seems like smoke and mirrors to me. And I think the public is smarter than that. Like when ValuJet crashed in the Everglades and changed its name to AirTran. Don’t you feel safer already? Does anyone really think that Altria is altruistic, and isn’t Philip Morris, the tobacco company?

I am sympathetic to the plight of the corn refiners…but I can’t help but think about the gag jokes (appropriately available for purchase at an online store called Stupid.com ) that my 5th grade son and his friends like so much – whoopee cushions, exploding cans of nuts and zapping packs of gum. Everyone gets the joke, but no one falls for it.

But who knows, maybe they will get lucky, like Accenture – who (according to legend) paid $100 million to develop a new name, then kept the employee nominated “accent on the future” name. At the time, it was panned as ridiculous corporate speak…until Arthur Anderson’s role in Enron became public. Maybe the corn manufacturers will get the last laugh with corn sugar…

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