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Nestle having tough lessons on digital reputation March 24, 2010

Posted by salla in Blogroll.
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Last week, Greenpeace started a campaign against Nestle and Kitkat, criticizing Nestle using palm oil companies that are destroying rainforest in Indonesia. The campaign included a well-done counter advertisement clip presenting an office worker having a blood stained break with Kitkat.

(Have a break? from Greenpeace UK on Vimeo.)

According to Greenpeace, Nestle demanded the video to be removed from YouTube, where it was originally published. But YouTube is not the only video service around and internet users are fast copy machines: the video has several copies circulating around the web, and at the moment of writing the original one seems to be back on YouTube again. Nestle has been a regular target for different consumer campaigns, so one more is probably nothing that new for them. Apparently, however, the online environment still is.

On Facebook people started making their own versions of Nestle and Kitkat logos, to which Nestle repeated by denying this activity: “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted.” Apparently after this Nestle also started banning people (including Greenpeace workers) from commenting to their fan page.

Within a few days, the whole shebang was around: Facebook, blogs, Twitter, traditional news media. During last days Nestle has been busy expressing their concern of the rainforests and orangutans. Meanwhile, Nestle’s page on Facebook is filling with comments from angry consumers and boycott groups are gaining members. The text flow shows the emotionally loaded style of online writing, and the modifications of logos are also working as powerful messengers.

The case is a brilliant example on the ways digital publicity can surprise and how stories are spreading online – and how little a company can do trying to prevent it. Usually barrier builders just end up getting more angry feedback, as Nestle has learned. In fact, the biggest issue here getting publics on their toes is actually not only the palm oil, but the attempt to censorship and restrict online communication. Quoting a commenter on Facebook: “Nestle, you are creating a social media case study. Stop and think and get some advice.”

Scott Douglas’s prezi summarizes the situation pretty well and brings up some statistics on the message reach.

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