7 Feb

This Is Us Just Put Crock-Pot on the Defensive. Here’s How to Keep Your Own Brand from Being Blindsided.

By Erika Turan


Fans of NBC’s juggernaut This Is Us have catapulted the show’s ratings since it launched in 2016. In fact, upward of 10 million people tune in each week to watch the generational drama that follows the Pearson family through triumph and heartbreak. Chief among the show’s touchpoints is its time-travel storytelling. It spends near-equal time showing the Pearson triplets as adults as it does as children.

Viewers have known for awhile that one of the show’s most beloved characters, patriarch Jack Pearson, is dead. But exactly when, and how, he died has been a mystery on the show since its first season. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet caught up, stop reading now.)

In an episode airing on Jan. 23, it sure looked like the Pearson home was engulfed in flames after Jack (diligently cleaning up the kitchen after the family’s annual Super Bowl fest) rested a towel too close to the Crock-Pot. He turned it off before heading upstairs to bed, but the Crock-Pot — given to them by a neighbor in a flashback who counseled, “It works great, but you have to jiggle the switch a little”) — TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AND SPARKED AND FLAMED AND SET THE TOWEL ON FIRE.

And if you work on the Crock-Pot brand, you just smacked your forehead and went, “What?! Oh, COME ON!!”

Crock-Pot was launched into crisis mode as people took to social media to share that they were kicking their Crock-Pots to the curb after the ubiquitous appliance apparently killed off a beloved character. Want proof? Well, Crock-Pot didn’t have a Twitter account until Jack’s demise. And now it does, where it is responding to consumers’ questions about safety and rants about Jack’s death, all the while offering free products and recipes. Follow the ceramic wonder @CrockPotCares.

There are also the articles touting Crock-Pot’s safety, advising that if, like Jack, you own a Crock-Pot with wonky wiring, it’s best to just get a new one. (But folks, this is true of all electrical appliances, yes?)

As you wait for the next episode of This Is Us, go ahead and take some steps to prepare in case unexpected disaster comes knocking at your brand’s door. (Jack! Rebecca! Why on earth didn’t one of you remember to get the batteries for the smoke detector?? You’re breaking our hearts here!)

  1. Identify your potential risks. Get your team together twice a year and talk through everything that could go wrong: a spokesperson identified as having unethical or illegal behavior; an employee who made an innocent or not-so-innocent mistake; a breakdown in the supply chain; an epidemic; service fails; natural disasters. When I worked in hospital marketing, our risks ran the gamut from bomb threats to escaped patients who were under arrest to serious surgical mistakes to an outbreak of illness that takes down staff and community alike. We ran scenarios and prepared for all of them. And, in fact, every single one of them happened when I worked there.
  2. Identify roles and responsibilities. If a fire causes damage to your facility, who will take on internal communications? Who will talk to media? How often will operational updates be given, by whom and to whom?
  3. How will you communicate? Will you use social media? Your website? Email? Text? If one system is down, do you have a backup?
  4. What is the most important message you need to get out? Crock-Pot is centering itself around caring, safety and tradition. “This is a reliable appliance that is rigorously tested and has safely produced millions of tasty meals for millions of people for 50 years.” What will your message be?


Crises come in all shapes and sizes. And, sadly, they usually come with little-to-no warning. Do yourself a favor and put two dates on the calendar in 2018 to review your crisis communications plan. And to change your smoke detector batteries.