05/03/2018 14:46 SAST | Updated 05/03/2018 16:56 SAST

Marketing Experts On Enterprise And Rainbow Listeria Outbreak

"The companies can still bounce back if they are strategic."

Cold meat products removed from the shelves of a Pick n Pay in Johannesburg. March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Cold meat products removed from the shelves of a Pick n Pay in Johannesburg. March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The listeria bacteria found at two Enterprise processed meat factories and one Rainbow chicken polony factory will without a doubt affect the marketing of the two companies enormously, according to marketing experts Chris Moerdyk and Groovin Nchabeleng.

Speaking to Huffpost about what this meant for the two companies, Nchabeleng said that while the companies could have not anticipated the crisis they are facing, they could still recover.

"These are well established brands that have been running for years – for them to disappear from the market as a result of this outbreak is not possible, especially if they urgently conduct necessary processes to regain the confidence of consumers," Nchabeleng said.

Moerdyk believes that the companies' responses following identification of the causes of the outbreak are commendable. "I think from a marketing point of view, they have done the right thing by reacting quickly to this outbreak, and not being protective and defensive like other companies that have been under similar circumstances – for example Ford motors when its Kuga models were catching fire."

Enterprise and Rainbow have not argued with the health department findings, but instead immediately withdrew their products – "which from a marketing point of view is commendable", Moerdyk said.

However, the outbreak would cause millions of rands in deficit for the affected companies, he said – not only will the companies have to take out all their stock in stores, but they will have to also refund supermarkets who have bought in bulk from them.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
A worker walks past cold meat products know as "polony" after they were removed from the shelves of Pick n Pay Store in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

" On top of that, I think this will also affect all processed-meat people – particularly in the upper economic groups, where people will simply stop buying processed meats and opt for something else. I think in the lower economic groups, there might simply be a temporary drop in sales," Moerdyk added.

Moerdyk said that he has no doubt that the sales of the companies will soon pick up again, because a product like polony comes in handy, especially for poor people.

According to these experts, Enterprise Foods and Rainbow will need to be very careful in future, once proper testing has been done on their products, that their processed meat lines remain listeria-free – and make that clear to the public.

"In this day and age, this is very much a temporary crisis. [As soon as] those companies named as the sources can declare their products listeria-free, their sales will go back up again – but that will not be an overnight process."

Moerdyk said there are strategies the companies could take in order for them to bounce back. First, they need independent laboratories to conduct tests and declare their products listeria-free, which will cost them hefty amounts – but that's the price of regaining trust.

Then, they need to advertise that their products are now listeria-free, along with credible reports from those labs to prove it.

To regain trust, Moerdyk and Nchabeleng said, the two companies should not rely only on social media marketing, but should also make use of local radio stations, televisions channels and newspapers, so that they reach lower-income groups, in which many people do not have access to social media.

"Most importantly, once they bounce back, the companies will need to advertise in-store [in the major supermarkets]. This is where they have to go, in order to communicate with customers and regain their trust," Moerdyk said.