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PR Fail: Nutella Spreads a Bad Message to its Fans Across Social Media
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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NEWS FLASH: People have been known to get a little possessive when it comes to brands. Take the luscious hazelnut spread known as Nutella. The international lovefest for this skim milk, melted hazelnut, and cocoa concoction is about as odd as watching a Star Trek convention (only with more girls). There's a fan page, Facebook, of course, and countless forums online to worship at the ovular container of goodness. That said, you would think Ferraro (its parent company of 25 years) would understand the fanfare and hubbub, embrace it, and champion the buzz. Tell that to Sara Rosso. 

Many people can say to whatever or whomever, "I'm your biggest fan." Sara really is — or perhaps was — Nutella's biggest fan. She's a mild-mannered blogger and Twitterer with an affinity for this crack on bread. To wit, she helped establish World Nutella Day. Nice sentiment, right? A celebration on Feb. 7 to "celebrate Italy's edible treasure with online and offline tributes." Share recipes. Provide pictures. And allocute about its greatness. Its Facebook page has more than 40,000 likes. And now, Rosso's efforts have been met with a lovely Cease and Desist letter from Ferraro. Stay classy. 

Why? Branding, of course. (Actually, it's control, but we will stick with branding for the moral of this story.) In Ferraro's words, "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." Rosso blogged about the legal kerfuffle and her beloved brand, saying:

"There have been songs sung about it, short films created for it, poems written for it, recipes tested for it, and photos taken for it. The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappoinment, as over the years I've had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferraro, SpA, and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants." 

The brand experienced an almost immediate online revolt. The hate mail flooded Ferraro's inbox. Tweets, posts, and videos all had Nutella's brand Nazis in their crosshairs. All because Rosso used a JPEG without their permission? Not. So. Much. It seems Nutella has more nutes running the company than it serves in every jar. That was a knee-jerk reaction that backfired completely. Arguably, this is what happens when legal and compliance in their sweet corner offices don't listen to PR and social media pining away from their cubicle farm. Ferraro wanted to distance from Rosso's efforts, kill the website celebrating the day and any devotees of their brand, it seemed. Following the aforementioned online mudslinging, someone at Ferraro got the stick surgically removed from its cornhole and determined that perhaps Rosso was on to something. From their Facebook page: 

Postiive direct contact between Ferraro and Sara Rosso, owner of the non-official Nutella fan page World Nutella Day, has brought an end to the case. Ferraro 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...Ferraro is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding together appropriate solutions, it immediately stopped the previous action. Ferraro consideres itself fortunate to have such devoted and loyal fans of its Nutella spread, like Sara Rosso.

Makes ya' all warm and fuzzy, right? The hapless legalese is just gushing with fake sentiment and transparently begging people to stop sending the parent company death threats. To its defense, Ferraro has never been the most socially adept company on the planet, but they are trying to see what all this Twittering, Facebooking, and blogging hullabaloo is all about. Perhaps now, they can do it with a bit of decorum and actually embrace the people who make memes about its spread on a daily basis. And just possibly, the Italian company can place legal and PR in a conference room once every decade to discuss these odd earthlings called "Fans." Nuts, right? 

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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