First off, I have to apologize for the way off topic blog article. I'm writing about Nutella, though I will mention Starbucks. Those who have been reading this site for years know that I rarely do this. I saw in the news that a Nutella super fan is being shut down by Nutella lawyers:
This is a shockingly backwards move by Nutella. It's so shocking that I cannot imagine what they're thinking.
Nowadays, it's fairly common for ordinary customers to start writing things in blogs (or tweets, or in Facebook status updates) about the brands they love. Just by way of example, there are fan-created brand-centered websites like Effortless Anthropologie, What's Good At Trader Joe's, IkeaFans.com, a Lululemon fan blog, and previously one man wrote about Method Soap. If you spend time using Google, you can find more examples. The number of Disney fan sites out there is phenomenal.
And within the past year, critical thinkers in the marketing arena have been publishing books on this topic. This is indeed a hot topic. There are corporations that hope to create rock star, monster loyal fans. They WANT to have fans like those I have mentioned above. Yes, I can understand why some brands would despise a website called WalmartSucks.com or ChipotleSucks.com, but that is not the topic at hand.
All within the last year, several books on creating enthusiastic customer evangelists have been published:
- Brand Advocates - Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force - by Rob Fuggetta. On Twitter, he is @Zuberance
- Think Like a Rock Star - How To Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans - by Mack Collier. On Twitter, he is @MackCollier
- Monster Loyalty - by Jackie Huba. On Twitter, she is @JackieHuba
Turning back to Nutella, their move is bad, bad, bad. It's just not in keeping with modern marketing thinking. The owner of the fan site NutellaDay.com had a Facebook page with nearly 40,000 likes! Her website and Facebook page will go dark May 25, 2013. The PR people at Nutella could have attempted other strategies first. If they had thought there copyrighted images on the site, or too much use of the Nutella trademark, there could have been less caustic intervention rather than a cease and desist letter!
From a legal perspective, I am not even sure what Nutella's basis is. The url alone is not enough to cause problems. The law weighs in favor of allowing ordinary people to create domains about brands to foster discussion about brands. This is why WalmartSucks.org is real domain - and undoubtedly, someone at WalMart hates that blog. Certainly, there are times when a brand could ask that certain images be removed, if copyrighted images are being used on a site. However, given the modern thinking on marketing, it's often not worth it to the brand to do that - they'd rather have the good PR. Pick up anyone of the three books mentioned above, and you'll see that brands want customers to passionately talk about them.
Today, May 21, 2013, I am sitting at home. I took the day off from work. The Starbucks PR department reached out to me last week, and sent an email, inviting me to an event at their headquarters this afternoon. I will be trying the new La Boulange pastries, soon to be offered at Starbucks. The founder of La Boulange, Pasco Rigal, is in Seattle, and will be there at the event to talk about La Boulange goodies. I am flattered to have this fun opportunity. And, truly this is 100% the opposite of how Nutella has dealt with their superfan, NutellaDay.com. I have a relationship with Starbucks - at least in the sense that I have someone to reach out to for questions, and now and then, Starbucks has given me the opportunity to have unique experiences. Today is a perfect example of that. To be clear, I won't be alone this afternoon at the Starbucks headquarters. I am under the impression that other media will be there also, and I will be along side it all, overdosing on pastries. If you see me rolling out of the Starbucks headquarters this afternoon, you'll know I ate too much!
And that is my commentary on Nutella: backwards thinking!
For further reading on this, visit Mack Collier's commentary: Fan Organizes Global Movement Celebrating Nutella, so the Brand Sends Her a Cease and Desist Letter.
Edit: It's now several hours after I wrote, and published this article. If you look at NutellaDay.com, it appears that Nutella has reversed their decision. That update came shortly after I published this article. Props to Nutella for doing the right thing!