Transfer Pricing Associates

Nestle's Encounter with Social Media Warfare

post Wednesday September 21, 2011

social media


Nestle has been hugely successful at branding household names such as Perrier, Kit Kat, and Nespresso, but after Greenpeace launched “social media-warfare” against the company this past year for a variety of issues, Nestle’s viral marketing took some serious hits.  

One of the issues in question is Nestle’s Nespresso brand gaining negative attention on various blogs and the company’s Facebook fan page from Greenpeace and other similar organizations who believe the company is not respecting Free Trade or Rainforest Alliance initiatives.  Even the ambassador of Nespresso – George Clooney – gained some negative internet press for representing a company that is said to need to pay more attention to Fair Trade interests of smaller coffee farmers and sustainability.

Another issue gaining media attention is the YouTube protests by Greenpeace regarding Nestle’s KitKat brand.  Greenpeace claims in a fairly graphic KitKat parody video that the candy bars are produced using palm oil from companies that are “trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orang-utans towards extinction.”  After the video went viral shortly after being released on YouTube, criticism for the brand moved from activist blog sites onto Nestle’s Facebook fan page where the harsh attacks on the company’s practices even gained some media attention.  Matters were then exacerbated when the team in charge of Nestle’s Facebook page began threatening to delete negative comments, which of course only fueled the fire.

It is clear that large multinationals will have to be social media-savvy to enhance their image and branding and to avoid triggering harsh criticism and fallout from a significant audience on social media sites like Facebook following such discussions.  Brand ownership as it applies to social media has different implications than when thought of in the traditional sense.  On forums like Facebook, negative comments from fans on company fan pages can practically take over ownership of the page when critics are able to coordinated viral protests on the same pages that brands use to market themselves. 

Since the social media barrage against Nestle began, the company has had to deal with a number of boycotts relating to product ingredients, environmental issues, economic impact, and labor practices of sub-contractors.  The negative backlash on the company’s lack of environmentally-friendly practices could have far-reaching consequences on the way the company brands itself.  One concern is whether the company should maintain its trademark image of the nest and small birds, especially if the image could prompt additional attacks from activists on the basis of the company seeming hypocritical. 

When it comes to the mass online attacks and negative comments on brands, industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang, says it best, “Facebook fan page brand-jacking [has become] the new form of tree hugging”.  Instead of perching themselves in a tree to protest, social media sites like Facebook allow activists to protest from the comfort of their own couch, a practice which apparently kind do quite a bit of PR damage for brands. 

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