Last week, Maclaren, a U.K.-based stroller company, issued a voluntary recall on one million of its strollers in the United States and offered free repair kits to those same U.S. customers. The strollers were being blamed for a dozen fingertip amputations and lacerations in children.
Maclaren's own recall site states, "Consistent with our unwavering commitment to child safety, we are providing U.S. consumers notice of a voluntary recall of all Maclaren umbrella strollers sold in the U.S."
Parents in other parts of the world were apparently not given the same assurance.
If this was a movie, you would have seen a quick cut to parents pushing strollers on the streets of the U.K. and Japan, only to stop dead, bubbles of confused thought appearing above their heads, "What about us?"
But instead of sitting in their neighborhood parks or chatting on the phone about feeling ignored, what do you think they did?
Correct. They added their voice to the every-growing social media chatter. One site even created a downloadable template to request the repair kit for customers in the U.K.
Apparently, that collective voice came through loud and clear at Maclaren's headquarters. By the end of last week, things were changing.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Farzad Rastegar, the CEO of Maclaren USA, pledged to supply repair kits to their customers anywhere in the world.
Also at issue for this nearly 45-year-old company: they seemingly were not ready for news of the recall to hit. Reports of jammed phone lines, non-working online links, overloaded sites, and Twitter accounts that circled back into the unknown made for some poor feedback.
It seems Maclaren now has personal knowledge of the power of social media.
As of this writing, a quick Google search for "Maclaren Fingertip Amputation" pulled up 425,000 results in .36 seconds.
The Good and the Bad
For Maclaren, this has not been its best two-week run. This is a company whose site claims, "Maclaren is a premier British parenting lifestyle company that produces the world's most safe, durable, innovative, and stylish baby buggies, strollers ..."
The tough news: Parents are likely not associating the word "safe" with Maclaren at the moment. The company made quite a few missteps - it wasn't ready for the influx of parents wanting to be reassured, and it believed, for some reason, that a recall for only a portion of its customer base was a good idea.
The good news: Within 24 hours of the recall being announced, U.S. customers were able to get the answers they needed and by the end of the week, Maclaren had acknowledged an error in judgment, therefore making repair kits available to everyone.
While I still can't find an official Twitter feed for Maclaren, I do know that it is utilizing YouTube to illustrate how its strollers can be opened safely -- once the hinge covers are in place. This video is only a week old, so it is clearly in response to the recall and its resulting chatter.
Whether or not brands and companies choose to engage moms online, moms will choose to reach out to each other -- to support, to inform, to spread good news, to protect, to complain.
The brands and companies choosing to talk back will be the ones who end up with the stronger online reputations.