US brands in China must take pre-emptive action

It did not take ads or participation in the Beijing Olympics for some major US brands to suffer the ire of consumers for having a presence in China.

It did not take ads or participation in the Beijing Olympics for some major US brands to suffer the ire of consumers for having a presence in China.

Because of the spate of toy and pet food recalls this year, consumers are looking at companies that use China for manufacturing warily.

Over the past six weeks, Mattel had to recall nearly 20 million China-manufactured products worldwide for a variety of reasons - the most frequent: potentially dangerous levels of lead paint.

The company has been running crisis communications efforts since early August, and the Toy Industry Association has launched a major media and consumer outreach effort to address the situation.

The recalls have also sparked a flurry of action and concern from other companies. This past week, The Walt Disney Co. announced that it would begin to independently test its toys for lead paint, and an article in The New York Times reported that Sesame Workshop would be making surprise visits to vendors and subcontractors in China. Two weeks ago, Toys "R" Us told its branded-toy suppliers that it was going to use an independent lab to test every product.

Any company that is using China for production and manufacturing purposes obviously must have a pre-emptive crisis communications plan in place. In fact, these companies would all be much better off coming forward now to explain to the public how they are going to inspect and keep tabs on any work being done in China. The public is paying close attention to the situation, so the ability for both false and factual information to spread globally at a rapid pace should impel companies to become vocal about processes before the next crisis hits.

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