Commentary

The Week That Ferrero Put The 'Nut' In Nutella

Sometimes, when you’re the writer of a weekly social media column, you just have to thank the heavens for dropping a beautiful column idea right into your lap.

So, this week, I’d like to send a very sincere thanks to Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella, for living up to the “nut” part of the brand’s name. In case you haven’t heard, the company embarked on a course of self-sabotage so masterful that even people like me -- who enthusiastically catalog social media #fails -- was duly impressed.

I speak of the brand’s decision to send a cease-and-desist letter to the passionate fan behind World Nutella Day, who, despite Ferrero’s best efforts earlier this week, will live to celebrate yet another World Nutella Day -- the eighth -- next February.

I really thought we were past the era where brands felt threatened by the passion of their fans, when they felt that punishing alleged improper use of the brand was viewed as more important than encouraging consumer passion. I guess I was wrong. 

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The good news is that the folks at Ferrero soon discovered the error of their ways, but not without just a teensy bit more hilarity, if you’re into seeing corporations defend themselves in the most stilted corporate language possible. This, like the spread, is rich:

“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.”

“Positive direct contact”? “A routine brand defense procedure”? Really? Even allowing for a language barrier, the brand’s mea culpa is still remarkably tone deaf. Or perhaps Ferrero’s statement is exactly what we should expect from a company that would actually be dumb enough to send a cease-and-desist letter in the first place. 

Note, also, that this reads as though Ferrero employs a special cease-and-desist-bot that spits out letters threatening legal action with impunity. It’s a remarkable exercise in de-humanizing what is actually a delightful brand.

Not surprisingly, the one who is most human in this whole incident is Sara Rosso. Check out her Q&A about the resurrection of World Nutella Day on her Nutella site. She displays absolutely no rancor, and has a lot of praise for the people at Nutella who helped the situation come to a stop. 

She even explains why she has refused to post the original cease-and-desist letter, which we social media rubber-neckers would dearly love to see. “When I posted the letter to fans on this site on May 16th, I had already formally replied to Ferrero,” she explains. “I felt releasing it would be taking a step backwards (and also lacking the context of my reply) as well as complicating the issue which I hoped could be resolved in a positive manner.”

Sometimes, it seems, fans have to save stupid brands from themselves.

2 comments about "The Week That Ferrero Put The 'Nut' In Nutella".
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  1. Erik Sass from none, May 24, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.

    mmmm, taste that rich corporate idiocy: "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."

  2. Nina Lentini from MediaPost Communications, May 25, 2013 at 8:20 a.m.

    Way back in the day, we owned a monthly magazine in Iowa City that we were busy putting online (this was 1995ish). The Des Moines Register annually hosts a bike ride across the state (RAGBRAI) that we thought would be good to promote so we created a site for that. One legal letter later, down it came, and it took a few years before the Register finally created the site. Like Sara Rosso, we weren't out for monetary gain. Silly corporations!

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