How Sony escaped a product recall disaster

Product recall is a costly decision. By publicly admitting that something is at fault could potentially damage a company’s reputation, devalue the consumer’s trusts in the products, and it’s financially costly to handle. 


With this in mind, full credit should be given to Sony for delicately handling the global recall of their latest video game release, LittleBigPlanet, following concerns that it may offend some Muslims. In doing so, it has regained the trusts from of current Sony followers, but also caught the attention of new audiences. 


LittleBigPlanet wasn’t something I was familiar with but Sackboy (the main character) started showing up on numerous national and trade publications, including Financial Times and The Guardian starting strings of conversation.  Now, I’m looking at the gaming site and wondering if I might want a copy when it’s launched. 


The creators, Media Molecule, were alerted to the problem when a Muslim gamer was trialling a beta version of the game.  He pointed out that two phrases from the background music track were from Islam’s most holy text and, by mixing this with music, could cause offense. 


A software patch was developed to remove the music but following further discussion with Sony, the company has “decided to do a global recall to ensure that there was no possible way anyone may be offended by the music in the game”.


As Darren Waters from BBC has suggested, this is “a blow to Sony on the eve of what was expected to be a triumphant release of LittleBigPlanet.”


On the flip side, this has also brought the company and the game into the limelight and potentially a wider mix of audience.  It’s perfect timing for Christmas too, with its re-release planned for 3 November in the UK and 29 October in the US.


This incident demonstrates that brands have to be careful in how they manage their reputations with the public.  Sony and Media Molecule ‘listened’ to its gamers and took on board the suggestion of developing a software patch to remove the offending source. They then made a public announcement on how it plans to rectify the issue and acted swiftly to minimise the damage. 


However, this raises an interesting question on if and how a product should be recalled.  Back in June 2007, Sony offended the Church of England after setting scenes in a violent video game inside Manchester Cathedral.  So why wasn’t that withdrawn?


Disclaimer: Edelman’s consumer arm, JCPR, represented Sony Playstation in the UK between 1998 and 2006.


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