In 2007, Sara Rosso, an American blogger living in Italy, created World Nutella Day to showcase her enthusiasm for Italy’s hazelnut-based spread, Nutella. Seven years on, someone at Nutella’s corporate parent, confectioner Ferrero SpA, decided they were not happy with this fan-led product promotion, prompting a social media backlash against the company.
NOTE: See Nutella Gives In, Allows Fan To Continue With “World Nutella Day” for our update to this story.
Ferrero decided to have its lawyers send out a cease and desist letter to Rossoa. She wrote on her World Nutella Day site:
On May 25, 2013, I’ll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella).
Seven years after the first World Nutella Day in 2007, I never thought the idea of dedicating a day to come together for the love of a certain hazelnut spread would be embraced by so many people! I’ve seen the event grow from a few hundred food bloggers posting recipes to thousands of people Tweeting about it, pinning recipes on Pinterest, and posting their own contributions on Facebook! 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 disappointment, as over the years I’ve had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I’ve always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.
Exactly why Ferrero isn’t happy with fans promoting a day dedicated to the iconic product isn’t clear. I’ve reached out to Ferrero for comment and will update this should one be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, the latest post on Nutella’s Facebook page (it doesn’t have a Twitter account in the US) is filling up with comments expressing displeasure at their heavy-handed action:
These disparaging comments for an otherwise popular brand could have easily been avoided with a little outreach. Ferrero has yet to respond to the comments on its page.
There have been cases where some companies have brought unofficial fan initiatives under their wing. In late 2008, Coca-Cola was forced into action as Facebook began to enforce a policy requiring brands to officially sanction pages promoting their products.
Rather than risking a potential backlash, which might have put one of the most popular pages on Facebook at risk, Coca-Cola took a novel approach by keeping the page’s creators on board.
For most marketing professionals, authentic customer testimonials are the gold standard in communication; indeed, many strive for credible word-of-mouth promotion by attempting to influence the influencers. Fans saying great stuff about me? Bring it on!
Postscript: This has now been resolved. See our follow-up story, Nutella Gives In, Allows Fan To Continue With “World Nutella Day”
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.