According to Leger Marketing, in May 2008 Maple Leaf Foods had a “good” opinion rating of 74% and a “bad” opinion rating of 7%. Immediately following the listeriosis outbreak in August, among past customers (defined as those who had purchased Maple Leaf products within the last six months) its good opinion rating had plummeted to 57%. Its bad opinion rating, meanwhile, almost tripled to 34%.
By January, however, its good opinion ratings had rebounded to 88% (above pre-crisis ratings) and its bad opinion had returned to 7%.
The study, titled Authentic Crisis Leadership and Reputation Management: Maple Leaf Foods and 2008 Listeriosis Crisis, was conducted by Terry Flynn, assistant professor of communications management at DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University; and Dave Scholz, VP, Leger Marketing. The report authors say the study demonstrates “for the first time, intangible quantitative terms, the positive impact of immediate crisis communications on consumers.” The survey interviewed 4,600 Maple Leaf customers before, during, immediately after, one month after, and four months after the breakout.
The study also found that the number of people who said they would purchase Maple Leaf products in the next six months dropped to 40% in the first few weeks after the crisis. By January, it had recovered to 54%. More impressively, the percentage of past customers who said the same thing rebounded to 85% by January, after having dropped to 55% after the crisis hit. “That is a really solid number,” Flynn told PRWeek. “In crisis communications, your job is to get the organization up and running as soon as possible and existing customers are the ones you'll likely have to count on.”