An important phrase, as written by Kotler & Armstrong (2010) is “Responsible marketers must consider whether their actions are sustainable in the longer run”. When faced with the dilemma of having marketed an unsafe product, you will need to consider the fact that if the product is already on the market and it is known to be unsafe – it is probably safe to assume that the fact that it is an unsafe product will come to surface and, in my opinion, the aim should be to cope with the bad press in a way that curves the negative image and hopefully builds a sustainable result.
Kotler & Armstrong (2010, p.609) outline this exact dilemma with it’s example on McDonalds and the bad press received due to their food being cooked in oils filled with trans-fats. McDonalds in turn has found a new source of food oil that is trans-fat free and does not sacrifice the taste of their french-fries (Kotler & Armstrong, 2010). Along with this they have also released additional product lines that cater for healthy eating (salads, etc).
While we also have the example as outlined by Kotler & Armstrong (2010, p. 613) of Hardee’s, a fast food chain that, at the time of a particularly health conscious media age (with focus on obesity and fast foods), released a new, incredibly high in calories (1410 calories) burger – with the attitude that their target consumer is able to choose between right and wrong; I personally do not see this as being a wiser decision than that of McDonalds.
The development of the safer alternative should be marketed well, and if the “unsafe” product is not a consumable product, I would consider allocating some of the budget towards allowing a discounted or free trade in for owners of the older models. With the devleopment of the safer, newer alternative, improvements on its eco-friendliness above and beyond it’s safety improvement should also be considered; if not, I would also consider the option of going the CSR (corporate social responsibility) route and donating a percentage of profits to a cause. While this may hurt current profits, the positive and honest image portrayed as “caring for the consumer” should aide in improving long term relationships.
I do not think that trying to ignore the fact that an unsafe product was released to the market would be beneficial in the long term, as that comes across as being un-trustworthy/underhanded – and trust is an important facet of any relationship, which definitely includes business.
Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2010) Principles of Marketing. 13th (Global) ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.