Break me off a piece of Nestle’s social media meltdown

Pay attention PR students…this one will be in the “what not to do” section of the social media case study book for a while.  Nestle, best known for Kit-Kats (IMHO), is embroiled in a fierce “oh no you didn’t” battle with social media…yes, all of it.

Here’s what happened according to Caroline McCarthy at CNET:

So here’s how it appears to have started: Environmental activist group Greenpeace has long been putting the pressure on Nestle to stop using palm oil, the production of which has been documented as a source of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and endangered species loss. A provocative new Web video campaign (warning: may be a bit nauseating) on behalf of Greenpeace’s U.K. arm targeted the food manufacturer as a threat to the livelihoods of orangutans, and according to Greenpeace, Nestle lobbied to have the video removed from YouTube, citing a copyright complaint. Cue plenty of free press for Greenpeace.

But it got worse. These days, just about every brand has a public forum in the form of a Facebook fan page, and Greenpeace supporters–whom the activist group had encouraged to change their Facebook profile photos to anti-Nestle slogans that often incorporated one or more of the company’s food logos–started posting to the Nestle fan page en masse. Nestle countered with a mild threat: “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic–they will be deleted.” A Nestle rep diving into the comments of the thread with responses like “Oh please…it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments” didn’t calm things down.

Long story short, fans are really TO’ed and Nestle is in social media time-out.  (Finger shaking) Learn how to interact properly with your fans and then you can leave the corner.  Maybe try and take a hint from Starbucks, a company that has weathered storms of criticism and prevailed…mainly based on the company’s loyal Facebook fan page and Twitter following that they have spent a great deal of time and energy building.  For example, last year Starbucks was accused of donating its profits in Israel to fund the country’s army — even though Starbucks doesn’t have any cafés in Israel.  Starbucks’ social media progress allows the company to manage any discontent that is expressed within the social media space.  Starbucks calls this the “embassy strategy,”  making MyStarbucksIdea and its Facebook and Twitter pages places that when you go there you know you’re going to get the straight scoop.

Nestle should have taken the time to listen to the concerns of their fans and not responded so brashly to their comments.  It obvious Nestle customers want the company to stop using palm oil.  Nestle should listen and take this as an opportunity to come out with some new “organic,” non-palm oil Kit-Kats so everyone is happy.  I know I’d buy them and maybe Greenpeace would lay off a bit.

(Disclaimer: I realize I’ve been writing about Starbucks a lot recently.  It’s not cause they paid me to (I wish), but rather it’s because I’m writing about them for my graduate capstone project.  So I’ve been reading about Venti soy lattes for weeks now.  And they have some good social media strategies.)

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8 Comments

Filed under Public Relations, Social Media

8 responses to “Break me off a piece of Nestle’s social media meltdown

  1. Chris Chymiy

    Hey, Ellie!
    Interesting stuff…
    but I’m a loser and lost your email so I’m putting this link here in hopes you see it…
    if you need it (you probably already found it anyway), here’s the transcript for the Frontline episode we saw in class… I’m going out on a limb and assuming you’re doing the one about online stuff…
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/etc/script.html

  2. Good example of bad PR management, Ellie. Also a prime example of how racism and antisemitism can permeate through social media.

  3. Cheapsuits

    Just to be a devil’s advocate. What if I posted this comment with an avatar that was a modified picture of Ellie Brown ? Or at least an Anti-Ellie slant to it? Are you saying Nestle should lay down in the social space and allow defamation of their logo? I get the whole perception of deleting only supportive comments dealio. I get it, I really do. I get the whole interaction in the social space. Where do you draw the line at which point you no longer allow people to cross? Do you wait until it’s blatantly illegal and libelous ?What’s wrong with telling peeps to chill on the offensive icons ? I think it one thing to censor comments it’s another to keep things visually civil especially in your own domain. Honestly, if I went to a vile website and started cutting and pasting and photoshopping an image that was anti-Daily Social you would not remove it?

    • I agree that Nestle had the right to tell people to chill on the offensive icons, but I think they could have done so without being such a-holes about it. I think that sometimes we as “consumers who now hold the power because of social media” sometimes get on a power-high and think corporations should bow down to us. I don’t agree with the bowing down, but I do think that Nestle should take this as an opportunity to listen to what their consumers are saying underneath all the BS…that they want the company to stop using palm oil. Nestle should give the people what they want and make some money out of it. Come out with some organic, palm oil-free candy, the public would buy, and you can take their money.

      I think its interesting that you bring up the point of visual vs textual criticism. Should the rules be different? I don’t know. But it’s something we’ll probably need to start talking about. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Cheapsuits

    I think they heard the message. I don’t think people hear any message about interaction in social spaces. Ultimately, the Palm Oil thang is a business decision driven by dollars. We all know that. If it raises the price of Kit Kats significantly above competing candy bars you can kiss that good bye. Nestle would rather take heat in the social space than lose tens of thousands if not millions of Kit Kat eaters in middle America that don’t care about Orangutans. That’s the facts maam.

    In terms of your original post ,I think this blog post sums it up nicely for me: http://www.federatedmedia.net/blog/2010/03/thurs-signal-you-say-debacle-i-say-debatable/

    BTW, have you ever deleted a comment or would you? Under what conditions would you do so?

    In terms of textual vrs visual, it’s one thing to call you something vile it’s another to take your picture and photoshop the rudest image onto it. Textual can be an opinion, visual can sometimes be illegal. If we take the Starbucks logo and used a very very similar logo for a band logo we look the other way and think it’s cool. If I reworked the Starbucks logo to show a poverty stricken coffee bean picker in the middle ( right OR wrong) I think Starbucks would alert their lawyers.

    Thanks for the discourse. THIS is what should have taken place for Nestle rather than name calling and threats

    And no I don’t work for Nestle and yes I vare about Orangutans.

    .

  5. Pingback: Social media backlash pushes Nestlé to evaluate palm oil policies « Daily Social

  6. Pingback: Social media backlash pushes Nestlé to evaluate palm oil policies | Marketing Conversation™

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