A Place for Packaging Innovators

Nothing can bring greater harm to a brand than a hit on product safety. Being¬†labeled “un-safe,” even for just a moment, kicks in what we refer to in marketing as the lopsided rule of 20 to 1: It takes twenty times the time and expense to repair a brand and bring back its customers (if even possible) for the one time incident that creates a negative safety spotlight. Issues of product quality follow close behind. Perceived safety and quality are tricky aspects of branding that, like a sand castle, can be tough to build yet frustratingly simple to knock down. To protect not only their brand but their resulting bottom line, companies must work hard to ensure both safety and quality at all levels of the manufacturing, delivery and consumer selling and usage cycles.

Quality Must Be Built-in and Out

There are two primary aspects to any given consumer product: the product itself and the packaging it comes in. Sometimes the two are deeply intertwined, with the packaging functioning as an ongoing use element. A good example of this is a re-sealable pouch or bag of chips. As long as there are chips inside…the consumer keeps and uses the package. On the other hand, some products use packaging as merely a delivery tool…where once the product is withdrawn, the package it came in is discarded. In either case, quality must pervade both in the product itself and in its shroud. Depending on the product, failure at any level can bring irreparable harm to the brand.

Let’s take a look at the drama (and damage) currently playing out around two different big name products and brands: Chipotle Mexican restaurants and the now infamous Hoverboard. Both are suffering from quality control issues that not only threaten the bottom line of their respective companies but also consumer safety.

What’s Up With Chipotle?

On December 28th, the Chipotle Mexican restaurant chain reopened a store in Boston, Ma. that it was forced to close after 141 college students were infected with norovirus earlier in the month.

The reopening of the Boston store comes after a second E. coli outbreak (also in the month of Dec 2015), which sickened five customers who had eaten at Chipotle restaurants in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Part of a larger, E. coli trend that has plagued the once fast-rising restaurant chain, it seems that the moment it clears one hurdle it is forced to shutter another store (or group of stores) due to new cases of infection. See this update from Wochit News:

Video Courtesy: Wochit News

The jury is still out on what has allowed both E. coli and Norovirus to flourish at the various Chipotle locations, so we won’t heavily speculate here. However, somewhere along the line, from the production and handling of its core ingredients, to the integrity of its packaging, there has been a clear failure. There is a real question as to whether or not the brand can recover. Well, we hope so as this Mexican chain has historically served-up some very tasty food.

The Case of the Exploding Hoverboard

Beginning with Back to the Future II, the notion of a hoverboard has long been pondered, dreamt of and, more recently, come to fruition in a number of carnations. Indeed, even the Lexus car brand produced a hoverboard in 2014, albeit one that was never intended for consumer sale and required its own (very expensive) track. That said, this new product category has made headlines recently for both good and, unfortunately, brand-damaging reasons: some models spontaneously catch fire and/or explode. Like E. coli, this is anything but desired by the consumer. See this video from The More You Know: Channel 2 that explains this phenomena:

Video Courtesy: The More You Know: Channel 2

What muddles things with the hoverboard product category is there are literally dozens of different companies producing hoverboards, yet all appear to be coming from just a small handful of Chinese factories. Even still, some hoverboard brands have risen to the top thus far, including the Razor Hovertrax ($599) and Swagway X1 ($499). Recently, Amazon banned the shipment of hoverboards through its system…and then later began allowing certain models through if they passed stated safety standards. The Swagway brand is still banned by Amazon, among others. In fact, Amazon has advised customers to actually “throw away un-safe hoverboards” and offers a product refund that can be explored here.

Needless to say, the damage being done to the hoverboard product category, and especially to certain hoverboard brands, may be irreparable. The importance of safe manufacturing and the adherence to quality and safety standards hasn’t seen an example as potent as this in some time. Let’s hope they get their act together as not only does this new product look fun, it (presently) brings a true an definite danger to consumers.

In Summary

Without a doubt, protecting a brand is something very serious not just for company profit potential but also consumer safety. Failures at any level of product manufacturing, packaging, delivery and expected use can bring significant harm to all parties involved. Recovering from such occurrences can, in some cases, be impossible; and at the very least, quite expensive. It simply pays to ensure quality and safety at every level…from the inside out.

AUTHOR: Dan Meyers