When an icon stumbles: the Ribena issue mismanaged


Two New Zealand schoolgirls – Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo – undertook a school science experiment testing for traces of Vitamin C. Testing of the Ribena Drink manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) showed almost no trace of Vitamin C. The product’s advertising claimed “…the blackcurrants in Ribena have four times the Vitamin C of oranges.”

The girls wrote to GSK. Following no response they then telephoned the organisation who treated them rudely, ignoring their questions. The girls’ claims were then featured in a local TV consumer affairs program which suggested they take their findings to the NZ Government Commerce Commission.

Following an inquiry the Commerce Commission took GSK to court on charges relating to misleading advertising. GSK pleaded guilty and in addition to being fined by the Court, GSK was ordered to place advertisements in major metropolitan New Zealand newspapers to correct its mistakes.

GSK made efforts to geographically contain the issue to New Zealand, however the story received disproportionate publicity around the world. GSK got caught in a ‘perfect storm’.

At a broad level, this case highlights valuable lessons for strategic organisational strategy and practice including:

  •  Ensuring internal management systems are in place to adequately respond early when situations may change;
  •  The need to have a consistent strategy towards the organisation’s customer base;
  •  Understanding the changing external environment (including the role that social media might now play);
  •  Recognise the importance of genuine and meaningful apologia and public dialogue in relation to reputational management when things may go wrong.

Individual Paper – Case Study Analysis.

The Assignment Task

Read the Case Study: “ When an icon stumbles: the Ribena issue mismanaged. ” and answer the following questions.

Question 1

Identify and discuss a set of coherent actions that the organisation may have taken to possibly avoid the legal and reputational situation that resulted from their actions.

Question 2

From an organisational perspective identify and discuss potential problems that may arise in implementing your suggestions.

Question 3

What might be the implications of your suggestions for organisational and management practice? Discuss this from a risk management perspective.

Some additional points to consider

  •  Your answer must be based in the theory and concepts taught in this subject.
  •  Discuss this question with reference to at least four theoretical perspectives.
  •  As a minimum research requirement, the subject text book and required readings must be referenced as part of your research effort to answer this question.
  •  The word limit for the assignment is 3,000 words per student candidate.
You may also discuss this question with reference to other organisational examples if 
these will add gravitas to your argument.


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