Navigating a Rocky Road

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Posted: September 11, 2015, 2:45 p.m.
by Caroline Giddis.

If there is one thing I consistently run to after a breakup, when I fail a test, or during a summer day, it’s ice cream. I can’t imagine anything worse than a summer without my favorite frozen treat — except this year it happened.

image1Summer 2015 was completely devoid of one of America’s (and my) favorite ice cream brands, Blue Bell. On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries voluntarily recalled all products after several cases of Listeria, a type of dangerous bacteria, were connected to its ice cream products.

If you’re a big Blue Bell fan like I am, this was horrible news. Luckily, as of August 31, Blue Bell is on the rise and already has products back in select regions. The most impressive part of it all? Blue Bell’s crisis management from start to finish.

As soon as the company recalled all products nationally and internationally, Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse released an apology video. He addressed loyal customers with humility and promoted the company’s commitment to solving the problem.

An April 20 press release included a game plan for sanitization of its facilities, additional employee training, and a new “test and hold” procedure. The company was providing solutions as soon as it announced the problem, which is admirable.

Blue Bell maintained complete transparency throughout the process via social media. Company representatives became active on Facebook and Twitter, posting pictures and play-by-play updates on their production facilities. They never stopped thanking customers for their support, showing their honesty and humility.

If you look at Blue Bell’s Facebook page, a post that received more than 21,000 shares is a video from August 11 of a truck driving to restock stores with Blue Bell products. This video preceded the August 17 announcement to resume distribution in certain areas made by VP of Sales and Marketing Ricky Dickson. Letting your customers be the first to hear big news sounds simple, but many companies get it wrong. This way, Blue Bell fans were able to share the news as soon as they saw it.

The company has a 108-year report card of nothing but success, which makes it easier for customers to forgive the almost brand-shattering product recall. FoodDive.com supposes that although Blue Bell faced a shut down crisis during its most profitable season, it showed its customers what the world would be like without Blue Bell ice cream products. And for many, it was a very sad summer of trying different brands of ice cream, only to be disappointed.

absence led to Blue Bell products flying off the shelves as soon as they arrived on August 31, and it continues to leave stores struggling to restock fast enough. This unforeseen benefit was most likely not a part of the plan but has increased the hype around the products’ return.

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Photo courtesy of Barclay Nix (Flickr)

Blue Bell’s humble yet headstrong approach to the recall is something to be noted by other companies when faced with a crisis. Using different social media to make announcements kept the customers as the focus of the company’s renewal efforts instead of the press. This creates a personal connection between consumer and producer, which is important to have when the product returns. I, for one, am thrilled that #BlueBellisBack.

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