The 3 Billion Dollars Ice Cream
The Criminal Ice Cream That Shook BMW’s Throne
The Story of BMW Group PR Crisis
An ice cream scandal has shaken the BMW Group, causing a PR crisis and a significant drop in their stock price. The incident occurred at the Shanghai auto show in April 2023, where a BMW staff member refused to serve ice cream to a Chinese citizen but gave it to a foreigner. The video went viral, with the hashtag garnering over one billion views.
BMW’s Response and Luneurs’ Statement
BMW issued a statement and a public apology, promising to provide better training for their staff and re-communicating the company’s values. The ice cream company Luneurs also issued a statement claiming they had nothing to do with the incident, and their ice cream was innocent.
The Irony and Root Cause
Ironically, BMW promotes diversity and openness in their core values. The root cause of the issue appears to be the hiring of a company to represent BMW at the trade show, whose staff were not adequately trained in the automaker’s core values. Large corporations often outsource logistics and hire “promoters” to save costs and boost their presence at trade shows. However, this can lead to a disconnect between the company’s values and the actions of these temporary representatives.
Cultural Sensitivity and PR Impact
Chinese users on TikTok and other platforms have compared the incident to historical racism in Shanghai’s Huangpu Park, where signs once read, “No dogs or Chinese allowed.” From a PR perspective, companies should be aware of cultural sensitivities and red flags when operating in any region.
The PR crisis may eventually fade, but the cost of the incident is severe. BMW’s stock price dropped 20.3% due to the “ice cream” incident, resulting in a loss of 24.21 billion euros.