Blue Bell gets ready to dish out its ice cream again

Dan Gorenstein Aug 12, 2015

Blue Bell gets ready to dish out its ice cream again

Dan Gorenstein Aug 12, 2015

What can a company do when its brand has taken a huge hit? Blue Bell Creamery is figuring that out.

The Texas-based ice cream maker has announced it’s coming back on the market soon, four months after a listeria outbreak that resulted in three deaths in Kansas and sickened people in four states.

How do you announce your return without reminding people why you went away?

Crisis management comes down to three things, says marketing professor Scott Galloway at New York University Stern School of Business. And only three things.

“But they are really hard to do and easy to rationalize ignoring,” he says.

The first, says Galloway, is to acknowledge the problem. 

The second is to get the CEO to be the face of the crisis. 

Finally, over-correct. Think Tylenol in the early ’80s when Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles of its pain reliever. 

“America and consumers love to forgive,” says Galloway. “It’s like a relationship. When your spouse gets angry at you, the easiest way to end the issue, ‘You’re right, I’m sorry. This is what I’m going to do to address the issue.’ It’s the same thing in the world of business.”

Blue Bell’s social media strategy appears to be following Galloway’s advice step-by-step. 

On the company’s Vimeo channel, CEO Paul Kruse explains that “our entire history has been dedicated to making the very best and highest quality ice cream we possibly could. And we are committed to fixing the problem.”

When a business looks to emerge from something like this, short-term pain is expected.

Blue Bell has laid off more than a third of its workers and taken out a $125 million line of credit. Brannon Cashion, with the branding firm Addison Whitney, says to survive, Blue Bell needs to turn the page.

“You get to a point where the more you say you are sorry, the less effect it has,” he says.

Cashion knows other companies have been down similar roads and that experience shows Blue Bell could end up stronger than before.

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