According to flight safety experts, "the expectation in aviation is never to experience a fire aboard an aircraft." Then why are Boeing engineers reporting that contained fires resulting from battery malfunctions onboard aircraft are almost routine? One reason: the intangible that can kill is reputation.
The fact that Boeing has come up with a fix for its lithium battery problem, albeit a fix that does not specifically address THE problem because THE problem could not be identified, needs to be packaged and sold to the flying public.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 taught businesses that denial and obstruction were not appropriate strategies to manage reputation hits. Since then high profile companies have managed reputation problems through choreographed public posturing, investment in public good, and expensive marketing programs. Since the Valdez disaster, downplaying the seriousness of the problem has not been deemed an acceptable strategy.
Boeing marketing is busy surveying for customers’ feelings about the Dreamliner, and they are investing in paid search that steers inquiring eyes to stories about how they are retrofitting the aircraft. For many, learning that battery failure is routine in Boeing aircraft is not reassuring. Understanding that the fix covers all possible methods the fire could have started and ensures containment if something did happen, making this aircraft the safest ever constructed by the Boeing company, would be better messaging.
For more on the importance of reputation as it applies to Boeing, see here.