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Friday, February 9, 2007

TrimSpa: Facing the Death of Your Spokesperson

No Longer the "Envy" of its Competitors

By Shakira M. Brown,

When your brand's tagline is "Be.Envied" you are making a bold statement about its quality and results. Pair that tagline with the sudden death of the face of that very same brand, you have a major public relations and marketing disaster. TrimSpa's spokesperson, Anna Nicole Smith, is no longer envied. Her tumultuous life ended abruptly at 39 on February 8, 2007. She was beautiful and svelte, (according to ads - thanks to TrimSpa), but this fallen former Playboy Playmate had a lot of turmoil in her life. So you have to wonder, why did Goen Technologies, the maker of TrimSpa, stick it out with her so long as to end up in a major branding conundrum?

Perhaps it was loyalty or faith that the buxom blonde would pull through her worst of times. But you have to wonder if anyone had prepared an exit strategy for what was becoming a challenging relationship at the business end of the spectrum. Now, TrimSpa's viability as a brand will meet its ultimate competition- surviving life after the death of its spokesperson.
Just hours after her death, Goen Technologies cleverly pulled the TrimSpa website completely down from new traffic, although you could view cached versions of the site. This was a good move because Ms. Smith was featured on its home page and through out the site. They chose to replace the brand site with a white web page with a statement in simple text about their sadness for her death. I believe this was a good idea, given the fact that she could no longer represent the goals and strategy of their product.

Unfortunately, the executives behind-the-scenes at Goen have a much bigger problem on their hands. All of the companies promotional materials, Print/TV ads etc. and some of the product packaging includes Ms. Smith’s image. Ms. Smith was the face of the TrimSpa brand. Now that she is gone, she can no longer represent a brand that encourages a happy, fit life. As a consumer, I might be curious how a 39 years-old seemingly fit, (again according to the ads) may have died after a collapse. Other consumers are probably wondering the same as should TrimSpa’s makers.

TrimSpa being a diet product brings up some obvious suspicions. If this were my client, I would advise them to enter crisis mode and immediately pull products off of shelves featuring her image. I would guess that TrimSpa users are wondering if the product had anything to do with her sudden death. TrimSpa’s PR team should be planning for whatever comes their way.

Based on other complaints of diet products over the last several years, TrimSpa must be prepared to address the health risks of their products even if their product had no role in her death. The sudden, tragic loss of a spokesperson is a difficult situation to address for any product company. Most companies typically develop a friendly business relationship with their spokesperson and dealing with the pain of that loss is always the first reaction. But going forward, TrimSpa as well as other product companies should be extremely cautious in such future relationships. But for Goen Technologies, it is my hope they have someone on the operations and communications side of the business in place to lead them through disaster recovery in order for their brand to survive this unfortunate tragedy.

About Shakira Brown
Shakira is an award-winning public relations and marketing professional with array of experience leading communications strategies for various entities. In her nearly 15 years of experience in radio, print, and television journalism and public relations, Shakira has worked with high profile news broadcasters, entertainers, moguls, financial experts, small business owners and c-suite level executives in various industries.

Her clients have been featured in major market newspapers, national magazines, national shows, such as The Today Show, the Associated Press, BusinessWeek (print and online), Fortune, Forbes, The Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, New York magazine, Lifetime Television, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), ABC, NBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX News and CBS radio, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Television and many other regional/local television affiliated networks and radio stations nationwide.
Prior to her career in PR, Shakira produced and worked on programming for MTV Networks, CBS News, MSNBC News, NBC News and ABC Networks and television network affiliates in New York and Boston. As a producer for MSNBC, Shakira produced daily news broadcast and served as producer for taped programming during the Network’s weekday and weekend broadcasts.

Shakira is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and immediate past chair of PRSA's National Financial Communications section. She also served as diversity chair on the executive board for the PRSA-NJ chapter. In addition, she has served on the Board of Trustees for TV-36, a local public access television station serving the five New Jersey towns of Berkeley Heights , Millburn/Short Hills, New Providence, Springfield and Summit . She also served as public relations chair on the executive committee for the New Jersey Chapter of the National Black MBA Association. Furthermore, Shakira is a voting member of the National Academy of Television & Arts Sciences, commonly known as the Television Emmy Organization.