Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

May 6, 2021

How To Apologize, As a Brand

Should Brands Apologize? Is There A Right And Wrong Way To Do This?

The Three ‘A’s of How to Say “I’m Sorry”

Have you ever received an apology that made you feel heard and validated and truly understood? And did you ever receive that half-apology that basically said I am sorry if you’re offended? That first type of apology likely just made you feel all better. That second type of insincere cop-out probably made you feel as though you were being spoken down to, as though you’re the one at fault. It’s the same when a brand makes a public apology – there is a right way and a wrong way for brands to apologize. I explain this in the latest episode of Inspiration to Millions and also share the three As for Acing the public brand apology.

The right way and the wrong way to apologize.

Remember the furor over the Dove shower gel ad that showed darker skinned women taking off their tops to reveal lighter skinned women emerging? The narrative appeared to be that one could somehow ‘wash off’ the dark and emerge ‘white’, and the ad was slammed as racially insensitive and more. It isn’t exactly clear what the ad was trying to say, but it was problematic and Dove had to apologize. They admitted that they had ‘missed the mark in representing women of color’ and that they regretted the ‘offense it caused’. Note how the brand didn’t admit to any wrongdoing. They didn’t say ‘we made a mistake’ and ‘we’re sorry’. The Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner is another example of a brand tendering a non-apology as I explain in my video.

There is a right way for brands to apologize as well. In my video I discuss how brands such as Starbucks, KFC, PricewaterhouseCoopers and OB Tampons got it right. This is the heartfelt, unconditional apology that admits fault in no uncertain terms and which promises to make amends. The sincere apology is a great way to have the last word in a conversation. It is about admitting to being fallible and showing one’s vulnerable side. When brands do it right, they tell their ideal audience that they are listening and that they want to make it all better. This strengthens the emotional connection brands have with their customers; one of the chief reasons for continuing brand loyalty.

The 3 As of Acing the brand apology.

How did the brands make it right with their customers? So KFC used some honesty and some self-deprecating humor to say sorry. OB tampons made it really, really personal when they said sorry to some 65 thousand women. PwC made it sincere, straightforward and to the point, telling people that the mistake would not be repeated.  The first A is to Admit to the mistake made – right away. Brands cannot afford to lose time over clever wordplay and deflection. Brands cannot afford to give customers the time to ‘break up’ with them.