Live by the social, die by the social.
That’s the hard lesson meal kit service Daily Harvest seems to be learning one Instagram post at a time.
The vegan food company, which has gained popularity with the help of influencers, has been trolled on social media after hundreds of people said they fell ill after consuming its lentil and leek crumbs. Some on social media complained of stomach and liver problems, and some said they had to be hospitalized. A woman said she needed to have her gallbladder removed.
The company said it received about 470 illness reports.
The uproar led Daily Harvest to voluntarily recall its French lentil and leek crumbs. Some consumers criticized the company’s handling of the crisis. Daily Harvest’s response offers lessons on how businesses should — shouldn’t — respond when a crisis strikes.
“As investigations continue, the company’s initial response to the possibility of causing major medical harm was to issue a refund. Many victims are now considering legal action,” said Mike Mandell, an attorney. very followed on social networks, in a YouTube post.
Some social media users said Daily Harvest had unfairly left the responsibility of spreading the word to the influencer community. Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Daily Harvest directed Insider to statements on the company’s website from Rachel Drori, the company’s founder and CEO.
Insider spoke with Lindsay Boyajian Hagan, vice president of marketing firm Conductor, who shared three lessons CEOs could learn from the Daily Harvest episode. She said that when faced with a crisis, brands need to take responsibility, make meaningful repairs, and be aware of the pitfalls of relying on influencers to bring a product to market.
The first step in managing a crisis is to accept it.
“Customers don’t expect businesses to be perfect,” Hagan said. But they expect accountability, she added, and the level of liability should match the extent of any harm caused.
After several Instagrams, Reddits and Twitter users reported nausea and vomiting, the company released a statement advising customers to throw out the dish. Daily Harvest also said it emailed customers who received its lentil and leek crumbs.
Daily Harvest posted a link to the recall notice on their Instagram account with the caption: “An important message regarding our French Lentil + Leek Crumbles. Link in bio with details. This message caused a backlash.
“Why not include the important message in the caption? Is your social media aesthetic more important than consumer health?” one person commented.
Daily Harvest has since deleted the message and replaced it with an update: “We take this very seriously and are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this. Your health and wellbeing is our top priority. .”
When it comes to accountability, Hagan said, consistency is key.
“Being consistently transparent with customers starts from within. It should be embedded into your company’s core values - and it starts with being transparent with your employees. When transparency is part of your DNA internally, it creates a foundation to translate that same openness to customers,” she said.
Effective crisis management starts with building an internal culture of accountability, Hagan added.
Make significant repairs
In the life of a brand, it is likely to rain a little. But how a business responds to a crisis can help determine whether it causes lasting damage. Businesses can minimize downpours by righting wrongs and taking meaningful steps to prevent problems from happening again.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is a case study in how businesses can recover from a crisis through deliberate action. From 2015 to 2018, more than 1,100 people were sickened, according to the Department of Justice, by outbreaks of foodborne illnesses at multiple locations in the fast food chain. As a result, Chipotle paid $25 million to resolve criminal charges relating to the incidents.
The company then launched an enhanced food safety program that included DNA testing of ingredients, changes to food preparation and handling practices, and the offer of paid sick leave to deter sick employees from working. By taking these steps, the company has won back disappointed customers.
Chipotle’s takeover indicates that Daily Harvest may have an opportunity to mend relations with disgruntled customers.
Hagan said the formula for corrective action was simple: “Acknowledging your mistake, being honest, and giving your customers or employees a forum to communicate with you is always the best course of action.”
She added: “If businesses can demonstrate that they hear feedback and use criticism as an opportunity to improve and grow, they can get back on track and prove themselves to customers.”
Daily Harvest’s recent actions seem to indicate a shift in its communications strategy. Following initial criticism on social media, the company is posting updates and full statements from its founder and CEO directly to Instagram.
In a recent statement on the company’s website, Drori wrote, “I recognize this is so frustrating. I am incredibly frustrated. With no definitive answer at this time, I would like to update you on our process.”
Consider the pros and cons of social media branding
Social media is, of course, one of the most powerful vehicles for cultivating a following.
“In many cases, an endorsement from a trusted influencer is almost equivalent to a word-of-mouth recommendation from a family member or friend,” Hagan said.
Daily Harvest courted influencers and brand ambassadors to help build its name.
“Instagram has absolutely helped us build our brand,” Drori told Insider in 2017. “Our packaging and products are visually dynamic and lend themselves perfectly to Instagram.”
After amassing significant sales through its strong online following, investors came knocking. With the help of high-profile backers including actor Haylie Duff, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams, Daily Harvest achieved unicorn status in 2021 with a $1.1 billion valuation.
Harnessing the power of social media savvy influencers can be a blessing and a curse. Lately, Daily Harvest has been going viral for the wrong reasons. According to data from Conductor, search demand for “daily harvest lenses” soared 4,400% in June, and searches for “daily harvest reminder” jumped more than 850%.
“Partnering with social media influencers is a great strategy for getting customers and prospects to learn more about your brand from a trusted voice,” Hagan said. “But these partnerships are not without risk.”
The lesson for other brands is to weigh the risks and benefits of relying heavily on social media influencers to boost brand image.
“When you partner with an influencer, your brand message is in someone else’s hands,” Hagan said. “So not only are you trusting them to convey your message authentically, but you’re taking a huge risk that an influencer aligned with your brand might act in a way that goes against your company’s values, compromising thus the value of your brand.”