For the past couple of weeks we’ve been focused on Disney’s social PR issues.
This week as they remain in a holding pattern in a will they/won’t they make a declarative statement on the withdrawal of the New Merida design, we turn our focus to one of the most fascinating collisions of a socially vocal community and a Brand; the Nutella World Day debacle.
If you follow Social Marketing blogs you hear an awful lot about buzz words like ‘engagement’ and building ‘brand advocacy’.
The holy grail for any active social brand is to create or tap into brand evangelists who are so passionate about a product that they will willingly speak far and wide on social networks about its benefits.
At ArCompany we have been promoting a different way of using Influence Marketing and determining who the true influencers are; they’re not necessarily those with large followings and noisy blogs.
With the launch of the book, you may have caught one of the many talks and interviews Danny Brown has given where he advises companies to spend more time and resources to understand their customer’s behaviors and the situations that influence them.
We forsee a shift in the way CMOs and Marketers seek out the infividuals who can inspire behavioral changes and cause customers to purchase.
Many companies search for these Influencers and try to build communities around them; for a rare few brands, these passionate Influencers are already out there spear heading brand evangelicism on there own, without ever being asked.
Why all the fuss about Nutella?
If you live in the US it is possible that you are not familiar with Nutella, although its been imported to the US from Italy for over 25 years.
It’s a hazelnut and cocoa spread that is wildly popular throughout Europe, Canada and other parts of the world.
Nutella the brand has long had a passionate following; for evidence, check out their Facebook Page and its 17 million+ followers.
As of the writing of this post, when you go to said page the first post you’re met with is the following: Positive direct contact between Ferrero and Sara Rosso, owner of the non-official Nutella fan page World Nutella Day, has brought an end to the case.
Ferrero would like to express to Sara Rosso its sincere gratitude for her passion for Nutella, gratitude which is extended to all fans of the World Nutella Day. The case arose from a routine brand defense procedure that was activated as a result of some misuse of the Nutella brand on the fan page. Ferrero is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding together the appropriate solutions, it immediately stopped the previous action. Ferrero considers itself fortunate to have such devoted and loyal fans of its Nutella spread, like Sara Rosso.
If you are stumbling onto the Nutella Facebook for the first time you may not know that Ferrero is the multinational company that owns the Nutella brand and was founded and is still run by the Ferrero family.
Sara Rosso is an American blogger living in Italy and a super fan of Nutella. She is also the founder of “World Nutella Day”. On this Rosso-created holiday, each February 5th lovers of Nutella the world over blog, post pictures and videos, and express their passion for the product online.
And so begins one of the strangest tales of a company fumbling their PR and the role social media played in the story.
Nutella Shuts a Passionate Fan Down
If you were the head or marketing director of a business and you woke up one day to find that a fan had organized a day solely to celebrate your product, one would think you might be… well… a little GLEEFUL.
If you also discovered that the same fan had created an online worldwide celebration of your product and convinced thousands of others to particpate you would probably see it as manna from heaven.
That was not exactly Nutella’s reaction. In April of this year Sara Rosso received a cease and desist letter. In the letter they told Rosso their reasoning was that they:
…consider it to be an unauthorized use of their intellectual property and trademarks, the Nutella logo and brand.
What Ferrero wanted was for Rosso to take down her website and Facebook Page, and to stop using the Nutella name and logos.
The Reaction: Nutella Has Gone Nuts
It goes without saying that every marketer and pr expert on the planet was left scratching their head in disbelief at Ferrero’s action. Why on earth would any company squelch this type of publicity?
The cynic in me has to ask: was it to bring about even more publicity? Of course I can’t answer that, but if it was the goal, it worked.
My experience with these sort of debacles tells me that the folks at Ferrero probably aren’t that brilliant.
The online reaction was swift and rode a crescendo of disbelief; the post titles tell the story of how most online news outlets saw it:
- Nutella Thanks Its Biggest Fan, Founder of World Nutella Day, by Sending Her a Cease and Desist That’s nuts!
- So Apparently Nutella Hates Free Publicity, Issues Cease and Desist to Founder of ‘World Nutella Day’
- Nutella Nixes World Nutella Day, Nutella Lovers Go Nuts
You get the picture: it was a copywriter’s dream, and the titles tell the story.
The Superfan’s Reaction
As I mentioned, Sara Rosso is a blogger, and the founder of World Nutella Day; she is not a PR expert or media whiz. Her reaction to the cease and desist and the fan outrage it spawned, however, was measured, mature, and frankly a case study in how one should handle PR problems.
- Rosso did not take to her blog to rant about the lack of gratitude Ferrero was showing her community.
- She didn’t throw her influence and power in their faces.
- She never released the Cease & Desist letter publicly, and she responded with calm and maturity, stating that she had always had a good collaborative relationship with the company’s employees and that she was hopeful for a resolution.
She agreed to follow the letter of the law until one was reached.
The Social Fans Reaction
Not all Nutella fans reacted with the same restraint Rosso showed.
When the blogger originally informed the 40,000+ followers of her World Nutella Day Facebook Page that she had received the Cease & Desist letter, the 426+ comments went something like this:
This is some sad news. And I actually lost respect and love for Ferrero. You’ve nothing but promote Nutella. They should thank you and send you Nutella for a life time. And not send cease and desist letters.
Stupid company. The backlash they’re going to get will be–ahem–nuts.
Nutella…more nuts in company management than in every jar. Idiots.
The social media reaction on both Facebook and Twitter was fervent, and the online and traditional press could not stay away from the story.
Like I said earlier, I doubt that this was an intentional PR mishap, but if it was, it was pure brilliance. Rosso herself believes that this was not a PR stunt, and answers the basics on her own blog.
Ferrero’s Change of Heart
As we’ve stated on other blogs, we admire companies that are willing to admit that they have stepped in it, and who will publicly change their stance. Ferrero, in the face of the online pressure, did just that.
Their own statement thus far is the simple and direct one posted at the beginning of this piece. As in most of these media mishaps, we so wish we could be a fly on the wall in the decision making meetings. Then we might figure out:
- Why, after 6 years, did Ferrero send the Cease & Desist?
- How on earth did they come to the conclusion that the Rosso created worldwide holiday was somehow bad for their brand?
- What was the C-suite reaction to the online uproar when it first began to explode?
- What was the discussion that led to the final, smart decision to allow Nutella World Day to continue?
Sadly, we never get that fly’s view, and it appears that most of these questions will go unanswered.
Nutella Wins in the End
As far as PR disasters and Social Media Uproars go, this one was tame, primarily due to the way Sara Rosso handled it.
We, as marketers, will of course talk about this story for the foreseeable future as a lesson in how not to handle a passionate if renegade fan’s support of your product. We will wonder endlessly why and how the decision was made to initiate the Cease & Desist.
But in the end the entire story can only be seen as a positive one for Nutella; the online press put out hundreds of story on their product.
Many more American consumers, a market they’ve struggled to really permeate, have taken notice of the product. Sara Rosso is still their number one fan, and all bets are that the next World Nutella Day will be bigger than ever.
It’s not often that this space writes about as social pr disaster that has such a sweet ending. And yes, the puns are irresistible.
VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany’s Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.