Facebook Chatter during Food Industry Product Harm Crisis

Tal Samuel-Azran, Tsahi Hayat


Product harm crisis can affect the reputation of the brand involved, particularly in the online social networks' era. To contribute to current literature on product harm in general and product harm in the food industry in particular, this study examined 6,894 Facebook discussions during the unfolding Unilever/Telma Salmonella-contaminated cereals 2016 crisis in Israel. The main goal of the study was to understand the extent to which discussions focused on the contaminated product versus the brands involved (measured by mentions of the cereal and the brands). During the three-month analysis, 2,894 conversations mentioned the contaminated product, followed by discussions of the role of "Unilever" (2,052) and "Telma" (1,897) in the crisis. While there were practically no conversations about the product or brands prior to the discussed communication crisis, a spike in the number of conversations occurred when the crisis started. The study attempts to help fill the gap in the literature on studies of social media during unfolding product harm crises. The analysis showcases the immediacy and severity of the damage for brands' image in the food industry in social media conversations during product harm crises.  


image crisis; Unilever; product harm; brand; Facebook' social media

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