Marketing News

How to Say “I’m Sorry!”


Everyone makes mistakes. Whether it’s in your personal life, professional life, or the life of your brand, it’s hard to avoid messing up every once in a while. But it’s not really the mistake that matters, it’s how you deal with it. Do you make excuses? Pretend it never happened? As it turns out, the most powerful way you can deal with a mistake is also the most humble way: Say you’re sorry.

However, apologizing as a brand can sometimes be dicier than apologizing as a human. We know, sometimes it’s really hard to say you’re sorry, especially if you feel like part of your actions were justified. However, if you have truly made a mistake and it in some way hurt someone, you have to own up. Let’s take a look at a few major marketing snafus and how the company dealt with the aftermath.

  1. McDonalds Compares a Big Mac Craving to Clinical Depression

In 2013, McDonalds released an ad featuring a photo of a woman, head in her hands, seemingly distraught. In large font, it said “You’re not alone.” In smaller type it read, “Millions of people love the Big Mac.” Yes, they tried to make a Big Mac ad look like a PSA for mental illness. We’re cringing right along with you.

Apparently, the ad was never officially approved by McDonald’s, and they were quick to note this in their public apology. They explained what occurred and apologized sincerely. The ad agency that put out the ad without pre-approval apologized as well. They were honest, sincere, and also addressed steps that they would take in the future to make sure the mistake wouldn’t happen again.

2. Coca Cola Changes its Formula

In 1985, Coca Cola made a terrible mistake . . . they changed. After 99 years of sticking with the original flavor, Coke decided to introduce the New Coke. This decision resulted in public outcry, and a flood of complaints. People seemed to take it personally, holding every coke employee, from the janitor to the CEO, responsible for the mistake. There were even protest groups!

Just three months after New Coke was released, public pressure won out. Coca Cola held a press conference announcing that they would be bringing back the original drink. Though the new Coke had performed better in taste tests, what they didn’t take into account was customer loyalty and the emotional attachment you can have with a brand.

Coca Cola’s apology, though subtle, was sincere. It gave the customers what they wanted.

You can read more here.

3. Apple Music

In 2015, Apple released a new streaming music service. However, there was trouble even before the official launch. Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to the music service complaining about their policy to not pay artists royalties during the three month trial period. She reasoned that this policy penalized struggling artists.

Less than twenty-four hours later, Apple executive Eddy Cue issued a public statement via Twitter apologizing for the policy, agreeing with Swift and announcing Apple’s decision to change this policy so that the artists would be paid.

What we like about this is Apple’s quick response. They recognized the urgency of the situation and made a decision to apologize immediately. We also liked that they were humble and open to change. They decided to immediately change their policy rather than launching into a big PR battle.

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So if you find yourself in a situation where an apology is warranted, don’t panic. We think it’s best to be genuine, specific and timely in your apologies. The public is watching to see how you react under fire, and dealing with a mistake in a humble and respectful way can keep your company’s reputation afloat.