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Red Lobster, Tesla, Panera Bread and Boeing All Have One Thing In Common (And It’s Not Good)

By June 11, 2024June 14th, 2024No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Entrepreneur)

In 2023, a Budweiser ad campaign faced severe backlash because it featured a transgender influencer — tanking the company’s sales by 10.5%. Meanwhile, Adidas’ high-profile partnership with Yeezy designer Ye — formally known as Kanye West — didn’t go as planned after he made a string of anti-Semitic remarks — driving the sportswear company to lose money for the first time in 30 years.

But hey, 2023 was just a preview of what’s to come in 2024. Merely five months into the year, we’ve already got a bunch of blunders, mistakes and slip-ups made by corporations that have not only generated countless negative headlines but billions in lost market value. Think our largest brands are being run by the best and the brightest? These ten examples will make you think differently.

1. Red Lobster’s “endless shrimp” deal may end the company

The company recently announced it is closing more than 50 locations as it fights off a potential bankruptcy filing. Although numerous factors caused their troubles, the one that seems to be the biggest is underestimating just how much Americans can eat. According to CNN, “more customers took advantage of the seafood chain’s “Ultimate Endless Shrimp” (deal) than expected,” and it was “the key reason for the chain’s roughly $11 million loss in the third quarter of 2023.”

2. Tesla’s stock dropped by 43% after harassment allegations against CEO Elon Musk

If you’re wondering why Tesla’s stock price has dropped 43% since the beginning of the year, you need to go no further than the Elon Musk page of The New York Post. Just this year alone, Musk and Tesla have been in the news for sexual harassmentjob cutsCybertruck recalls, tanking sales and attacks on the “woke.” Musk is a genius, but investors backing him have certainly learned that his leadership style presents risks.

3. A finance worker pays out $25 million in real money to a deepfake robot

An undisclosed employee at an undisclosed company in Hong Kong reportedly paid out $25 million to fraudsters pretending to be the company’s CEO using deepfake technology. The worker, after attending a video call that involved multiple people — all fake — transferred the money “because other people in attendance had looked and sounded just like colleagues he recognized.” Note to self: next time, try calling at least one of those people back, yeah?

4. Planet Fitness’ value plummets by $400 million after transgender policy outrage

Gym chain Planet Fitness saw its valuation plummet by $400 million in a matter of days. The dramatic drop has been linked to a refusal to reverse the cancellation of an Alaskan customer’s membership for sharing a photo of a “trans woman” using a female locker room. A spokesperson for Planet Fitness told local media that the customer took an image of a person inside a locker room, which violates the company’s mobile device policy and goes against the gym’s “judgment-free” rules. The backlash reflects a growing divide on the issue of transgender rights in the U.S. On March 19, Robby Starbuck — a music-video director and former Republican Congress hopeful in Nashville, Tennessee — took to Twitter to express his outrage: “Wow @PlanetFitness, It looks like letting men into the women’s locker room where they can spy on them while they change (including underage girls) is NOT super popular!” Elon Musk, who acquired X in 2022, weighed in on the controversial matter. “Yeah, this is messed up,” Musk wrote in response to Starbuck’s post.

5. Apple’s new iPad ad sparks outrage

After “reducing to smithereens” works of art and artists, an iPad commercial was abruptly canceled following a tidal wave of outrage because it represented “the destruction” of the human experience. “Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad,” the company said. “We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

6. Hims CEO takes a political stance and kills his stock

His CEO, Andrew Dudum, told pro-Palestinian college protestors “not to fear disciplinary action from their schools” and claimed that many companies (like his) are looking forward to hiring them. He noted that “moral courage” trumps a “college degree.” The result? An 8% drop in the company’s stock and a hastily issued “clarification” a few days later.

7. Nike comes up short on its new MLB uniforms

“Originally engineered to improve mobility, moisture management and fit,” the new uniforms made by Nike for the MLB not only are more prone to rips and tears but were found to reveal too much information about the players (if you know what I mean)! Fans and players cried “foul ball,” and the uniforms are undergoing a retrofit for the 2025 season. “This has been entirely a Nike issue,” the players’ union said in a memo. “At its core, what has happened here is that Nike was innovating something that didn’t need to be innovated.”

8. Panera Bread faces charges over its ‘Charged Lemonade’

After multiple lawsuits and the accusation of causing multiple deaths, fast-casual chain Panera Bread announced that it would be phasing out its controversial and highly caffeinated “Charged Lemonade.” Panera calls it a “menu transformation.” I’m sure their lawyers are calling it something else, like “run for cover.” The chain had previously issued more detailed disclosures and warnings about the drink before ultimately deciding to pull it altogether.

9. Boeing’s reputation flies out the window (literally)

After a panel blew out of a Boeing plane in flight (leaving a “gaping hole” in its side), a whistleblower’s warning, and an FAA audit citing multiple lapses in quality control practices, 2024 is shaping up to be one of the most challenging years in the airline maker’s history. The company has announced “several steps to improve quality,” canned its CEO and other senior management and board members.

10. Google re-writes American history

This year, Google learned a valuable lesson about technology: AI still needs some work. The company’s move to take on leading generative AI platforms like ChatGPT sparked outrage after it depicted “specific white figures (like the U.S. Founding Fathers) or groups like Nazi-era German soldiers as people of color,” which some argued were “an overcorrection to long-standing racial bias problems in AI.” Google’s parent company, Alphabet, lost $70 billion in market value as a result.

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