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​Irvins Salted Egg's prompt apology may help brand, say experts

Published on: 04-Jan-2019

While home-grown company Irvins Salted Egg's reputation has taken a hit following the incident in which a lizard was found in one of its snacks, the brand's popularity is unlikely to crumble, said branding and marketing experts.

Ms Jane Holloway, 38, who lives in Bangkok, had written a Facebook post last Saturday on finding a dead lizard in her half-eaten salted egg fish skin packet. Her post made headlines worldwide, including in Newsweek and the Jakarta Post.

Some experts reckon founder Irvin Gunawan's apology - in the form of a statement posted on Irvins' Facebook and Instagram accounts on Wednesday - would help repair the damage done to the brand's reputation.

But Dr Sharon Ng, an associate professor of Nanyang Technological University's division of marketing and international business, noted that Irvins has not yet been able to provide an explanation for what happened.

"This still leaves a fear that the problem is more systemic and simply telling customers that their product is safe is not enough to assuage people's fear," she said.

Brand Finance Asia Pacific managing director Samir Dixit said that with the saga blowing up online, Irvins could face a short-term impact to its revenue and even lose some market share, especially with other copycat brands already in the market. But in his view, the apology shows the company is sincere about resolving the issue.

"If the brand name is strong, people are usually more forgiving," added Mr Dixit. Related Story

Irvins Salted Egg apologises for dead lizard found in fish skin snack packet, offers refunds

Singapore University of Social Sciences' School of Business senior marketing lecturer Lau Kong Cheen agreed, saying that Irvins had been "quick to recognise the issue, how the customers felt, and did not create excuses".

Media tour of facility suggested to assure consumers

But he also pointed out that the statement was carefully crafted and Irvins had stopped short of admitting that the fiasco was its fault.

"Nevertheless, the message did come promptly and was in a sincere tone. This helped a lot as most customers are easily touched with sincerity," he added.

Dr Lau also said Irvins' apology cannot be "one-off".

"Customers and the rest of the market will definitely want to follow up on what happened. Competitors could also take advantage of Irvins' crisis," he noted, adding that this is why the brand has to continue communicating with its customers and improving its image.

Meanwhile, another customer has come forward to say she also found a lizard in her snack.

Commenting on Irvins' apology on its Instagram page, user el3na claimed she encountered "the same issue" in April last year.

A post on her Instagram account dated April 12 last year shows a photo of a lizard lying among what appear to be salted egg crumbs. The post was captioned "@irvinsaltedegg .. on trend with the #crispyrendang.. we got #crispylizard".

At least this number of Irvins Salted Egg outlets in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines. All its products are manufactured in Singapore.

In her recent comment, el3na said Irvins had at the time offered a refund on the condition that she fly to Singapore and hand in the package. "No apologies were issued back then. Appreciate that you provide explanations this time around," she wrote.

Irvins has yet to respond to queries from The Straits Times regarding the latest allegations.

Mr Gunawan had earlier declined to comment further on the first case, citing ongoing investigations by the company and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

In response to queries, the Consumers Association of Singapore said it has not received any complaints against Irvins.

Irvins Salted Egg, which has at least 13 outlets in Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines, manufactures all its products here.

It had in December moved to a new production facility, where Mr Gunawan said that its "hygiene and checking procedures are much, much stricter".

Mr Shawn Lee, 22, a retail assistant who works in Plaza Singapura, where one of the outlets is located, said the incident did not affect his impression of the brand.

He added: "I don't think it's a big deal, and the way the company handled it was quite good. It was very upfront."

Thai tourist and engineer Maneerat Thimasarn, 28, was not deterred by the news either - he bought six packets of the fish skin snack from the VivoCity outlet.

EXPLANATION NEEDED

Customers and the rest of the market will definitely want to follow up on what happened. Competitors could also take advantage of Irvins' crisis.

Dr Lau Kong Cheen, senior marketing lecturer at Singapore University of Social Sciences' School of Business.

"Some people are particular about things like (the lizard incident), some are not. I'm okay. I don't think it's Irvins' fault. Anything can happen to anyone."

Mr Dixit suggested that Irvins offer a media tour of its facilities as a way to allay concerns.

"This will instil trust and faith in the brand. It can do it any time and it should do it proactively, not necessarily wait till after the authorities are done with investigations," he said.

"If it takes further steps to share the investigations' outcomes, this will be good for it as it shows its commitment to transparency and customer service."

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