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.
Canteen’s latest campaign features the combined talents of Director Luna Laure and creative agency Crater. The campaign strives to raise awareness for young people affected by cancer. The awareness campaign centres around Harry Barentson, who at 12 years of age found out his pregnant mum had cancer. While his mother fortunately survived, he lost his […]
In partnership with storytelling agency Enthral, AFL star Kevin Sheedy has voiced a video ‘Love Letter to Victoria’ using visuals to showcase the state’s natural beauty and culture. Victoria has been hit with the worst of the coronavirus pandemic compared with any other Aussie state experiencing four lockdowns. Sheedy has partnered with Ethral to share […]
Telstra’s lower-cost telco, Belong, has awarded its strategy and creative account to Howatson + White, and has reappointed OMD to its media buying account, after a competitive pitch process. Howatson + White will handle strategy, planning, creative and CRM, while former agency Clemenger will continue to have a relationship with Belong, managing PR and retail activation. […]
Coca-Cola Australia has rolled out its new campaign ‘Turn Up Your Break’. The campaign will be led by a TVC that encourages people to truly pause with a Coke on their break so they can walk away feeling refreshed and uplifted. The TVC features two busy chefs stepping outside for a break, the bustling kitchen […]
Nova 919’s Ben & Liam breakfast show announced that they’ll be throwing their support behind and raising awareness for a cause very close to their hearts, mental health. On Monday 21 June Ben Harvey and Liam Stapleton will be locked in a purpose-built glass structure, in the middle of Rundle Mall, for an entire week […]
TRENDii has announced TRENDii Ads, a new contextual advertising solution that leverages content and context to promote eCommerce products at scale around the world. TRENDii Ads is user privacy friendly and offers a new way for businesses and brands to target consumers at the moment that they are most inspired to shop. “We believe good […]
ARN and The New York Times have reached an agreement for ARN to become the advertising sales representative for The New York Times’s podcast portfolio in Australia. The deal will enable Australian brands to connect with Australian listeners to The New York Times’s most popular podcasts, such as The Daily, Serial and This American Life, […]
Verizon Media’s talent program has come to an end for the third year, closing with a hybrid pitch-off event for Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD). The Verizon Media Academy class of 2021, made up of 44 emerging leaders from across Australia and New Zealand media, advertising and marketing industry, were given just one hour to […]