CBI Scene Blog

Maintaining Brand Reputation in the Event of a Product Recall

Posted by Mike Rozembajgier on May 7, 2013 10:01:00 AM

Product Recalls Conference

A recall event is an opportunity to strengthen or irreparably harm your brand reputation. It's a high stakes situation that when handled effectively, not only ensures the safety and wellbeing of customers, but also highlights a company’s commitment to high safety standards and efficient recall practices. Many recall events are voluntary when evidence of a safety issue or product defect is detected. Companies are tasked with recalling all affected or potentially affected products, which to the unprepared company can be a daunting task. What many companies don't understand is that it's not “if” a recall event will occur, but “when.” With this understanding, it becomes apparent how critical it is for companies to have a recall plan in place. Prevention is key, but in the event of a recall, a company that puts forth its full effort can avoid the irreparable reputation damage that follows a poorly handled recall.

Whether it's a toy, automobile, or food product, recalls occur in every industry. Through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been granted mandatory recall authority that allows it to force a company to recall a food product when the company has previously refused to comply with suggested recalls. Additionally, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the authority to mandate a product recall when necessary. However, it's rare for companies to refuse to comply with a suggested recall that therefore results in the escalated situation of a mandatory recall. What does occur more frequently, however, is that many companies receive notice of a suggested recall and then don't put forth a full effort behind the recall process.

Before a recall event even occurs, there are steps that companies can take to prevent and prepare for a recall. Beyond having safety standards in place that, depending on the product, meet FDA or CPSC regulations, having a full recall plan will ensure that in the event of a recall, people and processes need to be streamlined to ensure the most effective response. Additionally, keeping accurate and easily accessible production records will allow for proper identification of the scope and scale of the recall. Ensuring that all potentially affected products are recalled will prevent the need for an expanded recall announcement, prolonging the recall process and further exposing the brand to reputation damage. Questions to consider when building a product recall plan include:

  1. What is the volume of products that need to be recalled? Do all products need to be recalled or only a specific batch?
  2. How will the company identify affected parties and communicate the recall? Are those communication channels currently in place?
  3. Who will communicate with the FDA or CPSC about the recall actions taken by the company?

When faced with a voluntary recall situation, it's in a company’s best interest to ensure an effective and timely recall process. In a recent post on The Drum, Nirmalya Kumar, a professor of marketing at London Business School, suggests that “product recalls need not turn into a brand crisis. They can even be an opportunity to build the brand, provided they are handled appropriately.” Even if a company may not feel a full recall is warranted, fully engaging in the recall process will communicate to its consumers that the company:

  • Cares about and prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of its customers
  • Has efficient safety processes in place to quickly address and remedy safety concerns
  • Ensures the quality and safety of all its products currently offered

When a recall event occurs, denials and lack of action will only exacerbate the negative situation. Addressing the problem, communicating clearly to consumers, and making a full effort behind the recall will help to ensure that the brand reputation is strengthened by the event as opposed to irreparably damaged. 

Want to learn more on how to effectively prevent and prepare for a recall? Join us for the 2nd Annual Product Recalls Summit June 11-12, 2013 where you can participate in a mock recall exercise monitored by Stericycle ExpertRECALL consultants.

Product Recalls Conference


Mike Rozembajgier is Vice President of Recalls for Stericycle ExpertRECALL™. Rozembajgier is responsible for all aspects of recall service offerings, including development of strategic recall business initiatives and product enhancements. He has more than 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Prior to joining ExpertRECALL, Rozembajgier held various management positions at Guidant Corp. (now Boston Scientific) and at Deloitte in the Strategic Consulting practice.

ExpertRECALL™ is a global leader in product recalls. The company offers a robust set of solutions for pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer goods, juvenile product and food and beverage recalls. Since its inception, ExpertRECALL has managed more than 3,000 recalls, from the largest withdrawal in U.S. history to smaller consumer product and medical device recalls. The company also offers retrieval services to aid in recall effectiveness checks and reclamation of affected product from the marketplace.

Topics: Validation and Manufacturing