In today’s connected society, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who does not know about United Airline’s physically brutal deplaning of a doctor off an overbooked flight. People have flocked to the doctor’s defense, united in lambasting United and swearing to boycott.

We don’t know yet how bad the damage really is, but it is a real blow to United, which already has quite the reputation for treating customers badly.  There have been apologies and backpedaling and surely there will be lots of money invested into PR and renewed marketing efforts, but meanwhile, incriminating videos and stories are still spreading around the web like wildfire.

However, history shows that it’s unlikely that this will be the final nail in United’s coffin. Plenty of brands have endured – through exploding phones, contaminated foods, environmental disasters, humanity rights infringements and simple dishonest tactics.

Lets take a look at brands that have survived a bashing to the reputation and come out stronger:

Dirty Dominos


A blogger uploaded footage of two Domino’s Pizza employees in North Carolina filming themselves doing unpleasant and unhygienic things with the food they were preparing. The footage went viral and reached 1 million views before Dominos found out. The situation was made worse when it was clear Dominos only knew because the blogger alerted them. However, Domino’s learnt a great lesson- that social media is a fantastic channel to engage with the customers. Today, their channels have millions of followers and a reputation for friendly customer service.



Back at home Malaysia’s #1 telco Maxis was caught last year offering secret postpaid plans to customers requesting to port out. The secret plans offered more data at reduced prices. Angry customers left in the thousands, prompting CEO Martin Lundal to make a public apology video on their Facebook page. However, this saga does have a happy ending as it resulted in Maxis offering new plans with up to 50GB data. Maxis also saw their profits rise by 14%, proving that many consumers have a short memory especially when they win.

Apple’s China sweatshops


Ever wondered who makes your iPhones and iPads? 14 suicides in 2010 at a Chinese factory supplying Apple made it clear that the pricey devices are actually created in sweatshop factories under harsh conditions with poor compensation. Yet Apple remains the world’s most valuable brand, surpassed only by Google this year, showing once again that consumers have short memories especially for powerful brands.

However, sometimes a crisis has effects so far-ranging and damaging that a brand has no choice but to cut its losses, or to humbly apologize and offer recompense. Like:

Samsung’s exploding phones


The Note 7 was touted as a premium device, bigger and better than its predecessors. It had only one problem – the devices just would not stop exploding. While the debacle has inspired Samsung to make safer batteries, and to share the knowledge gained with the entire industry, the Note 7 was still catastrophic for Samsung. It forced them to issue a global recall that cost $5billion in losses and lost sales. Samsung’s reputation also dropped, from a #7 ranking in 2015 for brand visibility in the US to #49 in 2017 showing that it isn’t easy to recoup credibility once its gone.

BP Deepwater Horizon

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this handout photograph taken on April 21, 2010 and obtained on April 22. Eleven workers were missing and 17 injured in an explosion at the Transocean oil drilling rig, and crews were fighting the fire 16 hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday. An estimated 126 people were aboard the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the explosionA Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire aboard the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon, while searching for survivors April 21, 2010. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon's 126 person crew. Picture taken April 21, 2010. REUTERS/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

BP’s Deepwater Horizon was an oil-rig that broke records for the deepest well ever completed. It was also destroyed in 2010 in an uncontrolled eruption of oil and gas, taking 11 lives with it and setting off the worst oil spill in US history. The tragedy has even inspired its own movie. While BP is still in the Top 10 brands of Fortune 100, the brand name has become synonymous with this event and they are still paying off $60 billion in fines and settlements. Weathering a disaster of such epic proportions certainly does not come cheap.

Is your brand equipped to deal with a crisis?
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