We’ve all seen the damage that rumors can have, and in today’s world, with social media and how quickly news is spread, it can have destructive effects on business’ reputation. Businesses are no strangers to controversy and are more likely to feel the strain when their consumers find out that something is amiss with the company. Here’s a list of businesses who almost went under because of rumors.
1. Pop Rocks
Pop Rocks were a childhood staple for anyone growing up in the 1980s. The company experienced a lot of success, but a small rumor almost led to their demise. It all started when young actor John Gilchrist “died”. According to the rumor, Gilchrist’s stomach exploded after he ate the popping candy then drank a Coca-Cola. No one knows how the story started but when the rumor began to pick up, children were forbidden from buying the candy and sales plummeted. The company launched a campaign to show that Gilchrist was still alive, but many believed him to be a look-a-like. The story was eventually discredited but not after its discontinuation in the mid 1980s. Thankfully, it is still available today.
2. Bubble Yum
Bubble Yum was added to the gum market in 1976 by parent company Life Savers and it became an instantaneous hit. Many often questioned how the creators were able to make the gum so soft and when the company did not provide a response, people took it upon themselves to make one up. In 1977, a rumor started to circulate that the business was using spider eggs to give the gum its springy texture. The rumor spread and the public began to freak out. According to the company’s president “fighting the rumor was like punching air”, but they were able to dispel it, some months later. They are still available today.
3. Taco Bell
Taco Bell has been around for over 50 years, and it was near it’s 50th anniversary that the company almost said farewell to the fast-food industry, and it was partially their fault. Taco Bells often said that their meat was 88% beef which led many to question what made up the other 12%. In 2011, they faced a class action lawsuit for “false advertising.” According to the lawsuit, calling their meat “beef” was misleading as they used a mixture of additives, preservatives and binders and although the lawsuit died out, the resulting rumor was more damaging. People claimed that Taco Bell was importing dog and cat meat from China. The FDA had to get involved and the rumor was dispelled.
4. Syringes in Pepsi
In 1990 a Canadian store clerk discovered a syringe, which he mistook for a straw, in a bottle of Pepsi. It was removed from the shelf and sent to Health and Welfare Canada. An investigation was launched but no resolution was reached and although it never happened again, it led to a panic. In 1993, the story was covered by many papers and people all over the country began to claim that they’ve found syringes in their Pepsi. The FDA, in conjunction with Pepsi, investigated and found that people were just trying to make a quick buck. The first case was never solved and was ruled as a plot by a disgruntled employee.
5. Glass in Girl Scout Cookies
Girl Scouts have been selling their famous cookies outside of department and grocery stores for years and they’ve made millions from it. People often assume that they were laced with something (why else would they be so successful), but it wasn’t until 1985 that people found out what it was. One person found glass in a cookie and when the news began to spread, people across the country began to report getting cut after eating their cookies. The FBI was informed, and the cookies were soon recalled. Luckily the company only lost $300,000 and it was never discovered if glass was actually found in their cookies.
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