Nectar's PR crisis in slow motion – the first 24 hours

pexels-photo-359989 copy.jpgA lot can happen in 24 hours. That was certainly the case for UK loyalty card brand nectar when one announcement on its social media pages sparked a major backlash amongst its customer base. 

24 hours on (and 1.5K Twitter comments and 6512 Facebook comments later) and it's clear that nectar's has an unhappy customer base. And those figures don’t even touch the numbers of retweets, mentions, reply threads within the replies etc. Here we take a look at how the first 24 hours of the PR crisis unfolded.  

12:45pm Tuesday 15 August: Nectar announces that it is partnering with the Daily Mail. Whevener you purchase a Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday newspaper you’ll get points on your nectar card.  We see brands every day launching similar initiatives. Nectar had done their homework (they said) and they found that their customer base overlapped substantially with the Daily Mail’s readership. So everyone should be pleased yes?




Apparently not, and the comments start to flood in. They’re not good…




10 minutes in: It’s clear there’s a lot of ‘interest’ in this partnership…




2 hours in: People’s threats to cancel their Nectar membership appear to be very, very real – there’s certainly a long queue on Nectar’s online chat function to ‘delete my account’…




To show they are serious about cutting up their Nectar cards in protest, many also start posting pictures online to prove it (cleverly hiding their account number in most cases!)




3 hours in: The company most associated with Nectar – Sainsbury’s – starts to get drawn into the furore…




But a simple ‘we’re not a direct partner’ doesn’t quite cut it. More Sainsbury’s tweets come through (welcome Shaun and Steven…)




Every hour it seems another customer service person from Sainsbury’s tries to stem the tide with what is obviously their agreed response. Say hello to the Robbie and Cheryl shift…




Others soon cotton on to this ‘canned approach’ from Sainsbury’s though…




5 hours in: Meanwhile, on Facebook, the comments are flowing even faster than on Twitter…




Amidst all the negative comments one sole Facebooker, Thalia, decides to voice her opinion on the issue – she thinks it’s a great idea!




Others disagree…




There are multiple comments before Thalia starts to respond. It’s doubtful that she was prepared for the vitriol she received




She leaves the discussion by saying she’s riding off on her unicorn. Probably a wise move.

7 hours in: @StopFundingHate puts a call out to everyone to tweet Nectar at a set time to voice their disapproval. Time for a (polite) brand attack…




Night falls and activity starts to wane, until…

18 hours in: The UK is just starting to wake up. The issue may have gone to sleep overnight but fresh outrage came with the morning coffee…




The top tweets and keywords say it all




Nectar on the other hand, seems to have gone surprisingly quiet…




20 hours in: We head back to Sainsbury’s and it must feel like the morning after the night before for them. Seeing them squirm must have been fun for the other UK supermarkets. Eventually they can’t resist though and Aldi is the first one to wade in…




Closely followed by Tesco…




Quite controlled overall. No word from Waitrose.

23 hours in: We’re almost at the end of an excruciating 24 hours and the cut up card pics keep on coming!




It seems this is an issue that will run for a while yet.

24 hours in: Let’s go back to Nectar to see how they dealt with it all. After a day of attacks, what’s their response? Simple, retweet a couple of old posts, then put the final boot in for Sainsbury’s with a retweet from their magazine of course! Scone anyone?






 So what can we take away from this?

  • Be prepared:
    Nectar were clearly not prepared for the reaction they got to their announcement. It’s also not clear how quickly they knew there was a problem. Their initial canned responses were impersonal and petered out quickly before going quiet. As a result, in just 24 hours they’ve had countless people cut up their cards and cancel their accounts. 
    Learning: Being prepared with a clear plan of action is essential for any large announcement such as this. Responding quickly and with empathy would have helped with their reputation, if not the actual outcome.
  • Look at your wider community and partners:
    Sainsbury’s took a beating here, and they weren’t even involved. This issue clearly came out of leftfield for them, which meant that they didn’t appear to be prepared and as a result didn’t respond with empathy.
    Learning: Think about which brands, partners and topics you are heavily connected with. Have a crisis management plan in place for when/if something was to happen like it has here. ‘Leftfield’ attacks happen more often than you might think. Having a good monitoring service in place, that alerts you quickly to an issue, no matter what time of day or night is essential.
  • Watch out for when communities cross the line
    The vitriol Thalia received on Facebook raises questions about the responsibility of brands for the communities they create online. In this case Nectar appears to be happy to keep all comments live on its Facebook page, no matter how negative (though the lack of profanities implies some moderation on their part). But when an issue with a company becomes an issue with an individual, is personal abuse acceptable?
    Learning: Consider all the risks to your brand, no matter how ‘unlikely’ they might be. That way you can act quickly and maintain your brand reputation. There’s a fine line between strong opinion and abuse, and on social media it’s often crossed.
To find out more, speak to the social media risk experts at Crisp to understand where your risks lie and what you can do to prevent them exploding into a whole new PR crisis of your own.