Georgina Guedes

World Nutella Day lives on

2013-05-23 14:33

Georgina Guedes

I am a big fan of Nutella. The combination of creamy chocolate and rich hazelnuts is the perfect decadent treat for me - as my thighs will probably attest.

However, while the product is desirable, the people behind it leave a lot to be desired.

For a while, Nutella manufacturer Ferrero tried to sell the sweet chocolate-and-nut spread as a health food. Their ad showed images of children knocking back their chocolate-on-bread breakfasts, while stating "a healthy breakfast is one that will be eaten".

If only we could apply the same reasoning to lunch and supper!

Some legal entity in the United States told them to cease and desist, because poor, misguided citizens were falling for their spiel, and believed the product to be a healthy substitute for peanut butter.

Now as much as I bellowed out loud at the gall of Ferrero in trying to convince us that chocolate on toast was a health food, merely by dint of the fact that we enjoy eating it, I was equally amused by the susceptible members of the public who were actually fooled into believing that sweet, sticky chocolate spread might be good for them.

Anyway, that's now ancient history. But last week, stories about Ferrero were doing the rounds again. This time it was they who dished up a cease and desist letter - possibly because they were still ailing from the one they'd had to stomach.

They sent their letter to Sarah Rosso, the founder of World Nutella Day - an unofficial celebration of all things Nutella. She has a website - which she runs in her spare time and generates no profit - dedicated to the chocolate spread, which also publishes recipes for other Nutella fans to try out.

Rosso was stating her love of the product, raising its profile in an extremely positive way, and – I'm sure - resulting in significantly more sales of the spread as 5 February approaches every year. So she was extremely surprised to receive a letter from Fererro's lawyers telling her to take down the website and to stop celebrating World Nutella Day.

Then social media got involved and the story spread like Nutella on hot toast. All around the world, the sentiment was "why on Earth would any company want to take legal action against an ardent fan of their product?"

Just as incredulity was approaching bursting point, Ferrero realised the error in their ways, apologised to Rosso saying that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding, and that its lawyers were responding automatically to what they took to be an infringement. Ferrero has extended its thanks to Rosso and gratitude to all those who celebrate World Nutella Day.

Their story seems a little nutty to me. It took them about a week's worth of bad publicity to muster this feedback. If there were a marketing person with an ounce of savvy at their head offices, she would have been dashing down the corridors saying "undo this quick - before it spreads!" at the first sign of trouble.

While Ferrero have realised the errors in their approach - this time - there are many companies who haven't yet come to terms with social media, and the very public voice that an empowered public now has about their products.

All companies should be trying to identify fans like Rosso and reward them for acting as brand ambassadors - a case of Nutella should do nicely in any instance.

I'll be celebrating World Nutella Day along with Rosso next 5 February (still so very far away), and I won't even begrudge the profits that go to mean old Ferrero, because in the end, they saw the light.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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