A crisis can be the undoing of a company. Crisis positioning can also be handled professionally and soon forgotten. Rare is the crisis that actually enhances a company's reputation and position.

Many PositionistView® readers remember the 1982 cyanide-in-the-Tylenol crisis. Johnson & Johnson's textbook handling of that incident was just that - so "textbook" that readers who don't remember it directly may have learned about it in school. Crisis positioning paid off.

Well, you can add Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams to that very, very short list of companies. Never heard of Jeni's? Then you probably don't spend a lot of time near Ohio State. Based in Columbus with shops in Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and others, Jeni's makes premium ice cream. We're talking line-out-the-door-even-on-cold-days premium ice cream. Jeni's has a reputation for social consciousness with everything from ingredients to employee wages.

In April, one single pint of a signature flavor tested positive for listeria, a bacteria harmful to those with weak immune systems. Without so much as a day's delay to "investigate further," Jeni's abruptly closed all its retail locations, removed all products from grocery store shelves and halted production on all flavors.

Jeni's brought in expert scientists, third party labs, the FDA and the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The company has reconfigured the factory and added equipment to ensure the contamination will not reoccur, and believe it or not, had the recalled ice cream turned into a natural soil fertilizer. Who knew?

More to a Positionist's point, however, the company communicated to the fullest. Employees who normally work in sales, finance and operations set up a call center to talk to hundreds of concerned customers. The company shifted all its social media accounts to a daily play-by-play of progress.

What happened next was magic. Jeni's customers' outpouring of support became a bigger story than the contamination itself. The company gained hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new followers and will likely convert many into customers when the stores reopen soon. Crisis positioning pays off.

Jeni's estimates the whole affair cost them between $2.5 and $3 million. But did it really? In the short term, yes, the company destroyed over 250 tons of ice cream and their stores have been closed for a month.

In the long term, however, we know differently. A company's whose position is based on its reputation can only respond one way to a crisis. And so, we all continue to scream for Jeni's ice cream. Crisis positioning makes a difference.

Innis Maggiore Case Study

What kind of hospital doesn't want you in the hospital?
One with a very healthy attitude

Aultman Hospital is the leader in Ohio's Stark County and five surrounding counties. It leads in quality; it leads in patient choice; and we like to think it leads in marketing. As a leader, Aultman focuses on more than treating the sick and healing the injured.

It actually wants to help you stay healthy!

This reflects its mission of leading the community to improved health, as well as its Population Health initiative. Aultman's approach is different from ordinary healthcare providers, so Innis Maggiore's new campaign on its behalf is different from regular health care advertising.