Nestlé Social Media Nightmare

19 03 2010

I’m watching what’s happening at Nestlé with a lot of interest. I think we should all be watching carefully.

If you’re not up to speed, here’s what’s happening.

Greenpeace has targeted Nestlé in a campaign against palm oil. Here’s the Greenpeace Orangutan web site. And here’s some good background on the story.

Twitter is aggressively and gleefully helicoptering in enormous vats of gasoline to pour into the anti-Nestlé firestorm.

And, precisely on cue, the Internet’s townspeople have gathered their pitchforks and torches to storm the castle.

Here’s the Nestlé “fan” page on Facebook. Yikes.

Some of the snarkiest anti-Nestlé voices are from self-appointed social media experts. There’s a little too much glee for my tastes about picking on a company that has found itself in trouble.

Has Nestlé handled this unexpected attack flawlessly?  Perhaps not. But none of us are perfect. And that goes double when the stakes are high.

Before You Break Out Your Own Pitchfork…

The attack on Nestlé is not entirely fair.

They are not the only company on Earth that buys palm oil. Palm oil is widely used in the production of food and cosmetics.

And it’s not like they’re callously ignoring the issue, either.

As The Guardian points out, like Unilever and Kraft, Nestlé is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a consortium of buyers and producers promoting sustainably produced palm oil.

It’s all unfolding now, but a few lessons seem clear:

  • Social media gurus advocate “giving up control of your brand” and “conducting business transparently”.  This can be fun when people are on your side. Nestlé is learning that it’s a lot less fun when they’re not.
  • When you give up control of your brand people may not treat it the way you would like.
  • Transparency means people will see you naked sometimes. You will not always look good naked.
  • It’s a bad idea to “engage with consumers openly” when it suits you, and then slam down the castle gate when the mob turns ugly.
  • When the crowd turns against you, all the “sharing” tools you have given them can — and will — be turned against you too.
  • There are a group of people who relish “sticking it to the man”. They will always be first in line handing out pitchforks and torches.

I’m not suggesting that companies should avoid social media entirely.

What I am saying is that companies that do go there need to go in with their eyes wide open.

 Social media is like anything else in life. There are risks and rewards. And it’s not always easy going.

Lastly, beware the advice to abandon control of your brand. You are responsible for your brand’s success or failure, and you can’t crowdsource the job or make excuses when things get tough.

To borrow a line from an old song, “it’s a thin line between love and hate”.

Nestlé is a great company in a tough spot. I’m rooting for Nestlé to get this right, in every sense: not just the crisis management issue but the longer-term product issue.

How To Create A Facebook App That Won’t Fall On Its Face

11 08 2009

I like Ben and Jerry’s new Facebook app, a lot. It’s smart and fun.

And, it offers some good lessons about how to get a Facebook app right.

1) Don’t Think Too Much

A smart Facebook app does something different, fun and social.  But, it also has to be really easy for the user to understand and use.

Ben and Jerry’s FlipMyText app lets you create upside down messages, effortlessly.  Different, fun, social, easy.

Ben and Jerry's new app turns social media on its head

2) Be True To The Brand

The app is silly and weird for the sake of being weird. cherrygarcia

This app is pitch-perfect for a brand with a rich history of celebrating weirdness with flavors like Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace, and Karamel Sutra.

Ben and Jerry’s has always had a distinctive voice. It’s great to see them have an app that speaks their language.

3) Promote Something Actionable

Flip My Text isn’t a Facebook app for the sake of having a Facebook app. It promotes Ben and Jerry’s Flipped Out Sundaes, which are designed to be tipped upside down before you can eat them.

Weird but true: the app is easier to use than the Sundaes.  There’s at least one website with a tutorial about how to eat one.


4) Leverage Something That Already Works

Flip My Text isn’t new. I think it was really smart for Ben and Jerry’s to find something that already works and leverage it in a new and different way. It’s a good deal for everybody, including Flip My Text.

5) Be Worth Talking About

Getting an upside-down message immediately provokes two questions:
  • How did you do that?
  • Can I do it too?

If you’re thinking about creating a Facebook app, think about taking a scoop from Ben and Jerry’s:

  1. Don’t Think Too Much
  2. Be True To The Brand
  3. Promote Something Actionable
  4. Leverage Something That Already Works
  5. Be Worth Talking About

Social Media Link Roundup: Unilever, Kraft, P&G and Obama

26 01 2009

Monday links to explore:
Babs Rangaiah of Unilever: Video From Monaco Media Forum Video

Marketers Should Be In Charge Of Social Media
Today’s Ad Age asks “Who in corporate America owns the consumer relationship, the customer experience, word-of-mouth or social media? The answer appears to be nobody.”

A BlogHer Mommy Blogger’s Visit to P&G

2009 Web Predictions
Lots here about Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo

Brand Obama, Social Media and Lessons Learned
Good article from Jason Heller

If Dilbert Worked In Advertising
Funny because it’s true.

Kraft Apple iPhone App: iFood, the Video
Useful 3 minute video overview of the Kraft app here. By the way, Kraft iFood also works on the iPod Touch.

Kraft Apple iPhone App: iFood (Screenshots)
And good screen shots here.

The Nemcova Bikini Effect

31 07 2008

If you’re a woman, new research says the picture at right will make you feel worse about yourself.

But it may also make you love my blog.

An Ad Age article cites a study by business professors at Villanova University and the College of New Jersey, inspired by Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” shows that ads featuring thin models made women feel worse about themselves but better about the brands featured.

I’ve decided to call this phenomenon “The Nemcova Bikini Effect”, after the noted Czech market research executive/swimsuit model Petra Nemcova.

On a simplistic level, it’s easy to say that marketers are harnessing self-loathing as a way to drive sales.

I think a more nuanced answer is that it’s in our DNA to seek status and advantage as a means to survival.

Good looks are a ~$160 billion a year global industry, encompassing make up, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health club and diet pills. We want brands that promise to make us look better than we actually do. Some good facts can be found here. (I love linking to a guy whose blog proudly says “Born in Nepal”. The world really is shrinking, and in a good way.)

Some highlights of the study:

  • Women in a sample of 194 college students aged 18-24 expressed more negative feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition after seeing thin models than before.
  • Despite the negative effect on their body image, women preferred ads showing thin models and said they were more likely to buy products featured in those ads than in ones showing “regular-size models.
  • “The really interesting result we’re seeing across multiple studies is that these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it,” said Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova.

Unilever’s Campaign For Real Beauty continues. But, you have to wonder: when the campaign runs out of steam, will they turn to the Nemcova Bikini Effect to turn the business back around?

What would you do?

IAB Leadership Forum: Mobile

21 07 2008

AUGUST 21 UPDATE: Dynamic Logic study finds that on average a mobile ad campaign boosted awareness by 23.9%. Full story here.

JULY 22 UPDATE: Download the IAB Mobile Platform Status Report (PDF).

Just spent a long but interesting day at the IAB Leadership Forum on Mobile marketing. A lot to digest, but here are the highlights:

  • Mobile really is a mass medium
  • The usual early testers (Unilever and P&G) are testing
  • Every company references these same few tests as proof that “big advertisers are moving their budgets to mobile”
  • On the plus side, dramatically less breathless hype than you’d expect. The mobile companies are sober, smart and working on the issues. This is a very positive sign.
  • Technology is all over the place. Significant creative challenge.
  • Inventory is going begging — deals can be made very easily.
  • Mobile search will be important. Lots of companies vying for success in this space. I wouldn’t declare Google the winner here quite yet.
  • Many big company execs are European. Makes sense when you think about it.
  • Company to watch: Millennial Media. Started by ex-Verizon and execs. Their 5 minute pitch was pretty compelling. Very nuts-and-bolts, but in all the right ways.

Dove’s Campaign For Real Benjamins

7 07 2008

Social media reminds me of a Freshman-year high school mixer.

Imagine eager brands on one side of the room, mostly staring at the floor but occasionally casting furtive glances across the dance floor. On the other side, blushing consumers glance back. And then…

OMG! My brand sparked a conversation! Now what do I do?!?

What happens when a bold brand actually gets up the nerve to ask a consumer to dance, and the consumer says “yes”? Now they’re both stuck in the middle of the dance floor, with two questions:

  • “What, exactly, are we supposed to do now?
  • More importantly, where is it OK — or not OK — to put our hands?”

According to today’s New York Times, Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty is “faltering because consumers do not connect its products to the cause.” Uh-oh. So last week, Dove launched a TV commercial that boils down to “buy our soap, and we’ll support the Dove Self-Esteem Fund”.

What happens to the quality of the conversation as Dove shifts from the moral high ground to someplace a whole lot closer to the cash register? Will things get awkward on the way?

Can the brand quietly end the conversation and look for one that pays better? Or will people who were enjoying that conversation feel rejected — and be vocal about it?

Unilever is a smart company, and very skilled at cause-related marketing. Still, this is a very high-profile campaign on a sensitive subject.

What do you think of what Dove is doing? What would you do differently, if you were in their shoes (or soap dish)?

Let me know if you predict success, or trouble ahead.

Clipper Comeback: Coupons Revived, More Digital Than Ever

7 07 2008

A new article in the Chicago Tribune says that after sixteen straight years of declining redemptions, coupons are back.

Digital skews younger and has higher redemption rates. And a new Google AdSense-like functionality called “Brandcaster” may change the game further.

Read the full article here. Some highlights:

  • “Huge leap” at Coupons Inc. starting last September. They also recently unveiled “Brandcaster“, which applies contextual targeting to couponing, e.g. someone reading online about healthy food might see a coupon for organic milk. General Mills, Kimberly-Clark. and Kraft are all trying this.
  • “Anything you can do by point and click, we’re more likely to do,” said 23 year old college student Ariel Redmon. She looks for online coupons, checking out blogs and sites devoted to coupon deals.
  • “It’s really easy (…) if you’re at a computer all day,” said 32 year old mom Julia Kozlov, who uses mainly online coupons
  • Digital coupons tend to have much higher usage rates than traditional paper coupons.
  • Both P&G and Unilever have teamed with Kroger to offer paperless coupons online.
  • Kroger is testing coupons via texting to cellphones through Cellfire.

I’m particularly fascinated by Brandcaster, and surprised I hadn’t heard of this until now. Targeting coupons based on interests should work incredibly well. (See Greg Sterling’s take on this here.) I would also tend to think it’s more likely to generate new trial than a coupon on a brand website. Does anybody out there know?

UPDATE 12/16/08: Some surprising tidbiits from a new study from Packaged Facts, from Media Post today:

  • Richer families use more coupons. Households earning $75,000+  are more active coupon users (71%) than households earning less than $25,000.
  • Usage is highest among those working in such white-collar functions as management, finance and administration.
  • Smaller households use coupons more than larger ones. Two-person households use more coupons than those with three or four people, and those with five or more people are least likely of all to use coupons.
  • Baby Boomers are more likely to use coupons to experiment with a new product: 12% more likely than average to sample new products this way.  This definitely seems to argue against the conventional wisdom that older people are less likely to change behavior.

Photo credit:

Kevin George: “Digital Channels Are The Best For Creating Dialogue”

3 07 2008

No, this is not Kevin George of Unilever.I saw Kevin George present at an ANA meeting recently about how Unilever is using interactive TV. (NOTE: The photo in this post is not Kevin George. It is his stunt double.)

What I admired most about Kevin’s presentation was that it wasn’t at all about “look at the wacky futuristic stuff we’re doing”. It was very down-to-Earth and practical: if it works, we’ll do more of it.

Practical wisdom from Kevin:

“We strive to build “digital brands.” We start by defining the type of experience we want consumers to have with our brands, then determine the right media channels that deliver that experience. We find more and more that the digital channels such as online, interactive television, and mobile are the best solutions for creating that dialogue. The most important thing is that we don’t let the technology drive the strategy. When you focus from the very beginning on creating a conversation about your brand among consumers, not just sending a message “brand to consumers,” your approach is much more effective.”

I’d encourage you to read the full interview from Booz and Company’s “Strategy and Business” website. It’s from October 2007, but still smart, interesting stuff. Happy 4th of July, everybody.

Unilever: Evolution

30 06 2008

According to Simon Rothon, senior VP-global marketing services, in North America Unilever is “closing in on 15% of our total [marketing] investment going through digital media.”

Unilever has shown tremendous leadership in digital from the earliest days of the Internet, and continues forging ahead today. Today’s Ad Age has a good interview with Unilever CMO Simon Clift. Fun read.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Just TV

24 06 2008

20 years ago, you’d write the media plan and creative brief for a brand like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” in your sleep. Buy TV. Tediously explain why you taste just like butter but are better. Cut to animated demo, then happy Moms, then… back to sleep. (As a plus, this kind of commercial is very sleep-inducing).

Today, Unilever doesn’t do marketing in their sleep. They do it wide-awake, and it shows in their results.

The latest campaign for “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” has a totally different approach: rock stars and webisodes. There’s a TV spot, but it runs on Comcast Interactive and Direct TV.

Cheesy? Sure. But you can bet that if it didn’t work, Unilever wouldn’t be doing this for four years running.