*SPOILER ALERT* this post discusses the film Captain Philips including the end, so if you’ve not seen it and don’t want to know how it ends then you probably shouldn’t read on.
The other evening I watched Captain Philips – the Tom Hanks film about the Maersk container ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 – and in a geeky PR moment I started to think about the PR implications of the film. Firstly, for Maersk if the media got wind that one of their containers was being hijacked, and then about the consequences of allowing their brand to be used in the subsequent film adaption of said hijacking.
As the event took place back in 2009, it was probably too long ago for useful analysis of their response (I found an interesting piece though, link below), but I did wonder about the decision of Maersk to so openly use their name and brand in the film.
Admittedly the story ends happily (no one (apart from hijackers) dies, and the ship is released) it is still a negative link to Maersk. We all know the old adage “there is no such thing a bad publicity” is cobblers, but does the positive brand awareness of appearing in a Hollywood film (and a Tom Hanks one at that) out-weigh the association with hijacking?
I hadn’t come across Maersk before watching Captain Philips – although I don’t work in the shipping industry so why would I – and the brand awareness must have sky rocketed, but I will forever associate them with the Somali hijacking, and surely so will most people?
I expect their core customers will already be well aware of the 2009 incident and it would have been major news back in 2009, so it’s not like there will be any additional reputational damage from their key audience, it is just that everyone else will now recognise the brand as the ship that got hijacked.
That said, the film does reinforce the successful nature of the rescue and positive end result, so maybe it is not such a big deal.
For more information on the hijacking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maersk_Alabama_hijacking
And for the crisis communications lessons learnt from one of the advisors to Maersk: http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/10380/1084/Navigating_the_High_Seas_What_Somali_Pirates_Taugh#.VKgGuiusVtQ