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Nestlé’s Social Media Meltdown- A Case Study

May 19th, 2010 · 16 Comments

Nestle has had a very serious social media meltdown over the last 8 weeks. Their Facebook page and YouTube videos have been under relentless pressure from Greenpeace and like minded individuals over their policies of buying palm oil. Greenpeace accuses Nestle of supporting deforestation and threatening the Orangutan monkeys with extinction.

Greenpeace created a video which likened eating a Kit Kat bar to killing an Orangutan. That video was placed on YouTube and has received over a quarter of million views to date.

First Mistake: Nestle moved to have the video removed, which angered the Greenpeace members. Nestle claimed the video violated their trademark. Which is most likely true, however the removal angered Greenpeace so much that they organized their members to start making comments on the Nestle Facebook page.

Second Mistake: Nestle then moved to protect their Facebook page by removing critical comments and removing comments where the user had changed their profile picture to one of the altered Nestle Logo. (The image above was the most popular.) This move by Nestle angered Greenpeace more and caused a movement of their supporters to flock to the Nestle page and post more and more negative comments and more images of the altered logo.

Third Mistake: Continuing to do something and expecting the results to change. Nestle continued to remove comments with the altered logo from their Facebook until about March 19th. At which time Nestle proudly announced their intention to use only sustainable Palm Oil by…(wait for it) 2015! Just 5 short years from now.

Marketing Profs ran a great story on Nestlé’s missteps on April 22.

Fourth Mistake: Obviously this thorn in Nestlé’s side was growing into a festering wound. It must have been a major topic of conversation at many high level meetings. However the sweet giant kept all of their deliberations quiet, none of the “we’re considering our options” talk would leak out of the chocolate halls. This lack of transparency and apparent unconcern was translated into disdain and unfeeling by the Greenpeace movement. When yours is the only voice in the room people have a tendency to listen. Nestlé’s silence spoke volumes.

Finally They Get It: Nestle began a traditional slow speed counter movement making several environmental statements and announcing initiatives. But the dogs had already smelled blood and wouldn’t be driven off of the trail (perhaps not the best ecological analogy, how about this one) dolphins were playing in the storm tossed waves and couldn’t be lured away from their fun.

Mar 19–Nestle Hi everyone – We do care and will continue to pressure our suppliers to eliminate any sources of palm oil which are related to rainforest destruction. We have replaced the Indonesian company Sinar Mas as a supplier of palm oil for further shipments. Read more: http://tinyurl.com/nestlepalmoil

Apr 13–Nestle In a letter to Greenpeace today, our Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has called for a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests and highlights how the two organisations can meet this common goal. A full copy of the letter is here [http://bit.ly/bJqn0t] but in summary the key points we make are:…

And then Greenpeace announces:

Sweet Success: Nestle Takes Action to Protect Paradise

Posted by: rolf | 17 May 10 |

How could Nestle have avoided this mess?

TRANSPARENCY:

Without a doubt the executives at Nestle were concerned about the Greenpeace issues. Most likely there are several senior executives who are actually environmentally sensitive themselves. You may believe they are all heartless bastards but that’s simply not the case, they are people like you and me. But if they had told people they are trying to find ways to work this out, make everyone happy and protect the environment, things would have cooled down.

SILENCE:

When you’re talking at a snail’s pace, and everyone around you is talking like JFK you’re going to lose. Issuing a press release every 2 weeks would have worked 5 years ago, maybe. But today we have CNN and MSNBC and you don’t stand a chance if that’s your PR plan. You must meet the medium with the medium and respond in kind and in pace. Silence is deafening.

AUTHENTICITY:

It’s clear when you tell me you’re concerned about my problem and you’re doing everything you can to help me and your honest goal is to do it by 2015- Five years from now! That you’re full of BS. You know it, I know it, and everyone else knows it too. That part is obvious to everyone. Stop being a jackass and be real.

The Damages:

It is apparent that this movement has not hurt Nestlé’s stock price which is currently outperforming the Dow. It remains to be seen if they are hurt in any substantial way, although it’s unlikely since the event has now culminated. There are likely a core of Greenpeace supporters who will avoid Nestle products for a long while. And if Nestle backslides on their commitment to Greenpeace the movement may be easily resurrected.
But there can be no doubt that we have seen the first case of successful environmental activitism which took place mainly in social media. Following on the heels of this success we can expect more of the same.

Prediction:

There will be a new sub-specialization of experts in social media crisis damage response.

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