It’s good to be Honest

Actress, wife, mother, model and a savvy business woman with a company recently valued at $1.7bn, Jessica Alba has it all. But earlier this month, she found herself stuck in the middle of a PR storm.

Alba’s billion dollar business The Honest Company was co-founded in 2012 as a trusted source for stylish, eco-friendly baby products and non-toxic household cleaning products.

Last month, the company suffered from a consumer backlash when customers started taking to social media to complain that its SPF 30 sun lotion had left users suffering with extensive sunburn after sun exposure. Some even went as far as uploading images of their children’s sunburnt skin.

Given the nature of the story and Alba’s star status, this was immediately picked up by news outlets across the world prompting even more to divulge how they felt they’d been burnt by both the sun and the company.

Unwelcome attention is never what any company wants but every business should be prepared to deal with negativity. Planning ahead and having a crisis management procedure in place is key. Whilst the specific nature of an incident is rarely predictable, it is essential that companies plan broadly for all eventualities.

Companies aren’t always perfect and we all make mistakes but it’s how you handle these situations that can either make or break your reputation.

Last year, the very same Honest Company product was criticised for its thick and greasy texture, something the company took on-board. It listened to its customers and reformulated the product, which was relaunched in early 2015.

By reformulating the sun lotion, The Honest Company showed how it was turning a negative into a positive by improving both its product and customers’ experience of it.

Then came the latest controversy. In a formal statement posted on its website, Honest was quick to address the recent issues stating that the sun lotion had “gone through extensive third-party testing in accordance with government regulations and passed SPF 30 testing requirements… we stand behind the safety and efficacy of this product.”

The company was rightly sticking by its product, but it all felt a bit too formal given the company’s carefully cultivated friendly brand exterior.

Cue Jessica Alba taking to Instagram sharing a photo of herself and her children on an exotic beach accompanied by a link to a blog post.

A quick click sent you to a personalised blog post from co-founders Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan including photos of their young children. In it they said: “protecting our loved ones and yours is the reason we founded Honest. As parents, it pains us to hear that anyone has had a negative experience with our sunscreen. We develop and use Honest sunscreen to protect our own children… That said, what matters most to us is your trust and confidence. We’re passionate about living up to your expectations as much as our own.”

This was more in line with The Honest Company’s brand image of being caring and concerned and there for its customers. It has sold itself as a brand you can trust for eco-friendly and non-toxic products and one whose products you’d expect to perform as they promise to do.

By issuing a heartfelt, genuine response the company was able to use this opportunity to draw attention to the business’ positive qualities of listening to its consumers and taking their feedback on-board. Your consumers will gain much more respect for you and your business if you respond to negative comments in a pleasant, helpful and candid way.

It’s all in the name after all – Honest(y)