Is an apology an effective marketing campaign?

The corporate apology is nothing new. Since New Coke’s public apology in 1985, to the flurry of apologies of late from Facebook, Wells Fargo, and Uber, there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about this corporate crisis management. What Wharton professor Robert Meyer does find noteworthy, however, is the ubiquity of apology pleas that corporations are broadcasting for public forgiveness.


Research shows that in order to protect a company’s bottom line, and retain customers, the apology protocol is two-pronged: First comes the apology, then the steps to rectify the problem. 

According to a study published in April in the Journal of Marketing Research, a company needs to take steps to rectify the problem that are targeted directly to the specific customers affected. Timing is key, from a placeholder apology delivered as quickly as possible to precede a lengthier address, to an entire ad campaign. And an effective apology has to acknowledge that trust was lost, and provide evidence that change is underway. 

“The problem is that correcting the narrative isn’t simply a matter of a marketing campaign,” says Wharton professor Peter Conti-Brown. The company has to truly honor the promise it makes to change course.

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.