Gerry Harvey: The Unintentional Sacrificial Lamb Who Showed Brands What Not To Do Amid Covid-19.

Gerry Harvey: The Unintentional Sacrificial Lamb Who Showed Brands What Not To Do Amid Covid-19.

In this guest post, Ali Hiddlestone, media director at Lighthouse Communications, discusses how Gerry Harvey’s recent 60 Minutes interview shows brands exactly what not to do during a crisis…

As Australia grapples with the might of Covid-19, sending businesses to the wall and the economy into a tailspin, there are many feeling anxious, uncertain and helpless.

We are seeing economic uncertainty among Australia’s leading retail brands as they brace for what is to come. While many have already buckled in the past week, some are trying to remain optimistic.

Harvey Norman is one such example.

Having experienced similar tough economic times in Australia’s history, billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey thought he would take the opportunity to share some of his optimism during an interview on 60 Minutes, which aired on Sunday night.

During the interview, Mr Harvey told Australians that Covid-19 should be thought of as an opportunity for retailers to ‘cash in’, boasting that his retail chain, Harvey Norman, had seen huge spikes in sales due to panic buying.

“You know, this is an opportunity,” he told the journalist.

“Our sales are up in Harvey Norman in Australia by nine per cent compared to last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 per cent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 per cent.”

The following 24 hours saw Mr Harvey become the centre of a social media storm, with the billionaire’s comments met with extreme backlash and calls to boycott the retailer with the hashtag #boycottharveynorman.

“If this isn’t the most brain-dead and blood-boiling thing I’ve ever read. Honestly makes me feel guilty and ashamed to have ever shopped in Harvey Norman,” tweeted one viewer.

“Now is not the time to be boasting at how well you’re doing because of panic buying,” said another. 

Consumers were angry that in the midst of millions of people losing their jobs and the country in complete turmoil, Mr Harvey could be seen not only bragging about the situation, but seemingly taking advantage.

It’s clear his intent behind doing the interview was to counter the negativity surrounding businesses in these turbulent times, and to show a story of success and resilience. In fact, it’s been revealed this is exactly what he was trying to do – with Mr Harvey offering up an apology days later with the explanation that he was simply trying to “offer some hope and a positive view” of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We have gone through the SARS crisis and the GFC and survived. I was trying to say that we will get through this too and that we should not panic,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In his defence, he had conducted the interview on Thursday morning, and he argues the situation in Australia was very different then to what it had escalated to by Sunday, and if the situation had been like it was on Sunday, he would never have said those things.

Regardless, Mr Harvey’s ‘60 Minutes bungle’ (his words, not ours), provides a very worthwhile lesson to any other brands looking to be out in market during this very complex time.

There is clearly a very fine line between breaking the ‘doom and gloom’ news cycle by conducting business as usual and seeming to be both opportunistic and insensitive – which ultimately significantly hurts your brand.

In these unprecedented times, businesses will need to tread very carefully in any communications. 

While you can show resilience and explain how you are keeping your business afloat, or supporting your staff and the broader Australian community, it’s imperative that you don’t appear to be boasting about your success while other businesses are forced to close their doors, and hundreds of thousands join Centrelink queues.

 

 

 




Please login with linkedin to comment

covid-19 gerry harvey

Latest News

Social Soup Announces Major Partnerships Hire & Promotion
  • Advertising

Social Soup Announces Major Partnerships Hire & Promotion

Social Soup announced two new appointments, with the promotion of Cara Norris to head of growth and partnerships and the recruitment of Carolyne Gowen as client partnerships director. It follows the business’s second Influence Upfronts – the bi-annual influencer marketing industry update – in mid-May. Lead image: left to right, Carolyne Gowan and Cara Norris […]

Lisa Down & Leila Cranswick Join Ogilvy Sydney As Creative Directors
  • Media

Lisa Down & Leila Cranswick Join Ogilvy Sydney As Creative Directors

Lisa Down and Leila Cranswick will will Join Ogilvy In Sydney CBD as creative directors. The duo will work closely with Ogilvy Network ANZ chief creative officer Toby Talbot and the Ogilvy Sydney creative leaders, tapping into and working with the agency’s multiple pillars. Lead image: left to right, Leila Cranswick and Lisa Down, creative […]

NGEN Raises More Than $37,000 For Bravehearts In NGEN Dodgeball Show-Down
  • Advertising

NGEN Raises More Than $37,000 For Bravehearts In NGEN Dodgeball Show-Down

More than 400 members of the MFA NGEN community have taken to the dodgeball courts across Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne for the 10th annual NGEN charity cup dodgeball tournament, raising $37,428 for UnLtd charity partner Bravehearts. Fundraising efforts involved competing teams of NGENers selling raffle tickets for prizes generously donated by industry supporters, including a […]

James Schaw Promoted Inside Clems
  • Advertising

James Schaw Promoted Inside Clems

James Schaw has been appointed as the national workplace experience and building manager. Schaw will oversee all Clemenger Group workplaces across Australia, prioritising employee safety and wellbeing, as well as the Group’s values. James (Jimmy) has been an integral part of the Clemenger Group family in Melbourne since joining the company in 2009. He began […]

Nathan Cleary & Rexona Launch Two-Year Partnership With New Campaign
  • Campaigns

Nathan Cleary & Rexona Launch Two-Year Partnership With New Campaign

Rexona has launched an exciting new campaign with NRL sensation Nathan Cleary for its new creative platform, “Bring The Heat”. Cleary has entered into a two-year partnership with the antiperspirant brand, whose mission is to inspire confidence in everyone to move more. Spearheaded by Generator United and Photoplay, the new campaign showcases Rexona’s 72H Advanced […]

Keep Left Wins Go-To-Market, Brand & Comms Work For Sircel
  • Advertising

Keep Left Wins Go-To-Market, Brand & Comms Work For Sircel

Australian green tech company Sircel appointed PR and creative agency Keep Left to develop an integrated go-to-market strategy, including a refreshed brand positioning and communications strategy. Lead image: Laura Agricola, Keep Left strategy director Keep Left has been engaged as Sircel’s strategic communications partner, kicking off with a focus on brand positioning and messaging. The […]

Flight Centre Taps Qualtrics For AI Customer Experience Program
  • Advertising

Flight Centre Taps Qualtrics For AI Customer Experience Program

Flight Centre has announced a new partnership with Qualtrics to use its AI smarts to unlock actionable customer insights across multiple channels with conversational analytics and natural language processing. While traditional customer experience programs focus on structured feedback, such as satisfaction and post-sale surveys, Flight Centre is gaining a more complete view of its customers […]

CMOs To Watch: Hawthorn FC’s Dan Hamer’s Next Big Partnership
  • B&T Exclusive

CMOs To Watch: Hawthorn FC’s Dan Hamer’s Next Big Partnership

From managing partnerships at one of Australia’s oldest AFL clubs to planning a wedding in October, Hawthorn Football Club’s head of commercial partnerships and growth, Dan Hamer, has a lot on his mind. Welcome back to ‘CMOs To Watch‘ . Once a month, we look beyond the biggest marketing bosses in Australia and the world to […]