Modified Animal Meat and Online Surveys
In March of 2000, a rumor started to spread through the internet that a popular global restaurant chain was not using real beef in their hamburgers. The email suggested that, instead of getting their meat from cows, this company was getting their meat from a genetically modified animal. The email claimed that "the few who saw it assure it is a very unpleasant sight: they have on limbs or horns, no bones (undeveloped cartilage instead), no eyes, no tail and no fur; its head is about the size of a tennis ball; they are fed through tubes connected directly into their stomach". This email painted a disturbing picture which no doubt caused it’s readers to pause and contemplate the truth of such accusations. Readers would most likely ask themselves if such a thing could really exist, and if it did exist could it really be the creation of such a company. The discovery of the creature was credited to some researchers from the University of Michigan, but no one there ever claimed authorship to such fantasy.
It has been pointed out that this urban legend closely resembles one that dogged a fried chicken chain a short time before. In this example it was claimed that the company had to remove the chicken from their name, because the restaurant no longer used chicken in it’s products. Instead they used an altered chicken species. This rumor, which was also spread through the internet, claimed that "These so called "chickens" are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients throughout their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers, and no feet.
Their bone structure is dramatically shrunk to get more meat out of them". This discovery was also credited to a University. This time it was the University of New Hampshire who, the email claimed, had recently conducted a study of the restaurant. The effect of such claims on a company can be disastrous. The company in the first example suffered from an earlier rumor. This rumor claimed that they put worm meat in their hamburgers as a "filler". It is believed that this rumor, which was false, had a negative impact on about 20% of that companies restaurants. The rumor changed the eating habit of some the restaurants patrons. In the end the food chain had to pay for an extensive image campaign. They released a number of aids with an emphasis on the "pure beef" in their hamburgers.
In the case of the modified chicken the company responded with the help of the news media in the following statement "The hoax is intended to destroy the trust that you have placed in us to provide high quality chicken meals at all of our restaurants. Although we hope that readers of the hoax will recognize it as obviously false, we take this or any other attack on the quality of our product seriously'. Image control during such a crisis can be key to curtailing lost revenue and customers. What’s needed when such a rumor is circulated is a quick snapshot into the mind of your consumers. This picture will help you construct the necessary plan, and implement damage control in an effective and cost efficient manner. One way to do this is to hit back at the rumor through it’s own medium, the internet. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. One such way is through an internet survey. Online surveys can be one of the Band-Aids a company can apply to such a rumor. A quick online survey can help a company gauge the impact of such negative exposer.
Through an online survey a company can determine who has heard the rumor, who believes the rumor, what effect the rumor has on those who believe and what action they plan to take. An online survey will provide the company with an informative picture of the impact of such a rumor. With this information in hand a business can then turn around and treat the damage properly. Knowing where to give their attention and how to give it properly. In this way saving both time and money by avoiding a misdirected image campaign.