Thursday, 25 March 2010

Nestle demonstrate lack of understanding of social media principles

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Nestle were looking for agencies to help them improve their current predominantly negative presence in the social media sphere.  I suspect that process hasn't been concluded yet, but the need for someone to help them has been heavily exacerbated this week by the Greenpeace attack on Nestle's contribution to deforestation & habitat loss via their use of palm oil in confectionery (amongst other things).

Greenpeace's marketing assaults have always been punchy, to the point and are usually very well executed. This latest campaign is no exception.Using a high production value spoof on KitKat's "have a break, have a KitKat" ads of old, and making it easy to share across a range of social spaces they've successfully done a lot to highlight an issue, that most consumers wouldn't even have considered when standing in front of the confectionery counter. And being a huge multi-national, with a mixed track record on the "act with integrity" scorecard anyway, KitKat might be the vehicle du jour, but the knock on effect across the rest of the Nestle portfolio is almost guaranteed.

So shame on Nestle for the following reactionary post on their Facebook page:

For me this is social media gold, the perfect example of how not to go about it.  It's not rocket science, tell anybody not to do something and it naturally makes them want to disobey, ask any 4 year old, and when there's a contentious issue at stake, that's been raised by someone else, and by someone who is clearly better at the social media game than you are it's not terribly smart to start acting like Big Brother. It only fans the flames. No prizes to the Nestle corporate citizen who posted this: “Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus.” Ooops. Smell the coffee. This is 2010.

It's a scary world for brands who have been used to controlling the conversation for years, when all of a sudden they find they aren't in control anymore, and their organisational structure inhibits their ability to react with the speed and agility of the connected consumer.

That said, reading the Nestle Facebook page comments this morning, there was a healthy mix of good cop bad cop comments from consumers in reaction to some of the recent Nestle palm oil supplier decision announcements. And that's the point.  On the whole the internet is a self-policing state.  Yes, there are levels of government filtering in some parts of the world, hence the Google v Chinese Government shenanigans this week, but on the whole, the consumer is a smart beast, capable of evaluating and making their own decisions.  What's important to one consumer may be less important to another, but they will still form their own judgements, share them and choose what they listen to / take notice of.

Brands need to learn how to operate on more sociable terms.

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