Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Lessons for brands and companies after Oscars 2017 mistake

Jonathan Blum

One of the most shocking moments of the 2016-2017 awards season is the mistake made in the 89th Academy Awards ceremony. This news spread immediately around the world, along with mockery, memes and jokes, which were quickly seen in mainstream and social media. This made us recall the incident when Steve Harvey misread the name of Miss Universe, which was initially given to Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutiérrez, but had been actually won by Pia Alonso, Miss Philippines.

But: what should we, as companies and brands, learn from these mistakes? Undoubtedly what happened has generated endless articles, statements, and a speculation; but, in summary, this has been an organizational failure, and one mistake that can devalue your brand.

More than a funny story that has undoubtedly marked the history of film and that of the Oscars, this has become a headache and a deep crisis for Oscars organizers and companies engaged in the ceremony –one of which is PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm responsible for the envelopes, who has taken responsibility for the mistake and stated that they would investigate what happened. “Presenters were mistakenly given an envelope from a wrong award category and when it was opened it was immediately corrected. We are now investigating how this could have happened; we are deeply sorry this has happened. We appreciate the sense of humor of the nominees, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel in handling this situation”.

The first positive example about a mistake was given by TNT Latin America –the channel that broadcasted and translated the awards ceremony in real time. TNT used the situation for marketing, using the same slogan “pasa en las películas, pasa en TNT” (it happens in movies, it happens on TNT) with the scene where La la land received the award by mistake, putting the same mistake in a different event, which was the previous Miss Universe competition, where Steve Harvey wrongly named Miss Colombia as Miss Universe. It is clear that in cases such as this one, taking advantage is a good move because they are not directly involved and the audience is already aware of the message expressed by the channel.

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A mistake is one of the most terrible moments feared by all brands, and which may teach a number of lessons about what to do and what not to do when in crisis. First, it is important to recognize the mistake; it is a very smart action in the business and brand world today. Once a mistake is detected it is important to act even if the process may be painful. Second, the best thing to do is sincerely take your share of responsibility and not try to let others take full responsibility. Control your spokespersons; the problem for brands and companies is that in situations like this there is not an obvious spokesperson, which leads to many versions, stories and accusations in the media. Last but not least, brands and companies cannot afford to lose their credibility. Good crisis management and good consumer relationship dynamics will be helpful, i.e. if there is room for humor (in the case of the Oscars, for example) a wink, laughing at ourselves and recognizing our own humanity would not be out of place, just like Steve Harvey did when he broke the ice and laughed at his own mistake in the competition last year, wearing a pair of reading glasses to not misread again the name of Miss Universe.