Nutella, in the words of one of literally thousands of angry fans on the brand’s Facebook wall just “went from hero to zero with this boneheaded stunt.” Their capital offense was in their regards to their recent heavy handed moderation of “World Nutella day” a successfully viral and completely authentic fan organized celebration in it’s seventh successful year. Nutella recently wandered into the brand love party waving a cease and desist and demanding the event and related fan site be shut down, somewhat akin to the curmudgeonly grandparents from Weird Science swinging their tweed hats at the celebrating crowd. You can read about it here: http://huff.to/13IKIhG Apparently, someone at Nutella corporate legal wants it to be known that they won’t stand for boloney. Someone on their social media team should have known better.
On social, your brand identity is what your best fans say about you. The only brand free from the risk of audience interpretation is one that’s completely ignored. As brands, we can, and should, say what we are – and say it clearly, persuasively, and authentically. If we do right, and we’re lucky enough that good people speak well of us, we can work to shape that conversation, but we can not control it. We’re in the business of conversations, not monologues. Great brands are great hosts, and have a real seat at the table with their fans. Great hosts provide a meeting place, foster conversation, and introduce relevant people. They don’t talk just about themselves, and they don’t shout over any competing conversation.
Sara Russo, the founder of nutelladay.com sadly recounts her shock at receiving the cease and desist, and her remorse at having to end the long running event and take down the corresponding site and Facebook page. It is a fan community that has spawned hundreds of stories, photos, recipes, original Nutella odes, even enthusiastic short films. Sara and her Nutella-minded kin folk are not brand hijackers or trolls or crazed lunatics. They’re the super fans that every brand hopes to earn, a collection of normal people with an extranormal amount of love for a particular brand.
In semi-anonymous aggregate, it’s too easy for the brand to lose sight of the individual, and the massively personal nature of the relationship of each brand fan. We can’t tell them exactly how to love us. ”I would have been open to any kind of discussion,” Rosso said. “[It] didn’t have to be a legal document.”
I believe there’s still a common sense test that can help us navigate the complexities of fan communities. When considering an action, try to imagine there is no “US” the Company”, and no “Them” the Fans. Rewrite the script as a conversation between two people. You, as a representative to the brand knocking on Sara’s door, invited into her Nutella scented kitchen, offered a snack, perhaps hearing the faint background music of Nutella Day carols through the radio. Now ask her to stop. How does she react, and does it feel to ask her?
There are variables, there are complexities, there are nuances and strategy. And there should be, but, however persuasively pitched, how ever data justified, good social strategy never ever fails the common sense test.