advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We should stop using all products, then.

Ben Kunz on Thought Gadgets has his take on the recent Nestlé and their Facebook page snafu. Long story short: Their social media person nuked a ton of replies that weren’t favorable to the brand. Replies that were also furthering a Greenpeace agenda. In addition, Nestlé said they would delete any posts with avatars depicting their logo in a negative light.

Now, because there are always multiple angles to a story like this, just let me say: There are always multiple angles to a story like this.*

Why the Enron logo? That goes to corporate greed and such which I’ll get to in a minute. First, the *only* thing I might cut the brand slack on is the protection they afford their logo and brand. Having done the community manager thing for an NFL site, I know how passionate fans get about their teams.

Problem is, when the brand is the NFL, they go to extreme lengths to protect their trademark, especially when fans start using player pics on blogs and such. Any brand though, not just the NFL, needs to enforce its trademark at some point, so this is why I will give them a break here. (The NFL though, was far more lenient with avatars from my experience.)

Now, I’d have to check with legal, ahem, but I think in the context of editorial opinion, you can reuse a brand logo or image as long as it doesn’t defame or harm the company. (Save the “Nestle kills babies” bullshit—I’m talking for any brand, not what Nestlé is accused of here.)

Secondly, and digging deeper, when you read the replies from the Nestle rep, it’s a textbook example of how not to talk to anyone, let alone in the context of a social media campaign:

Nestle: Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it's our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus. Fri at 2:53am

Followed by:

Nestle: We welcome debate, @Hyra - from any opinion. It helps us to know what people think and feel. Fri at 4:44am

Now, I’m as sarcastic as anyone; y’all don’t have nothing on me. But when you read through the entire stream of comments by Nestle, they come off as borderline... well, I have to check with medical on this, but, in my unprofessional medical opinion, psychotic? Egomaniacal? Sociopathic? Bipolar?

All of the above?

They’ve since self-corrected and allowed all comments, which, apparently has appeased the Greenpeace Gods who can now flame away, leading to the underlying issue here. It ain’t manners, although that’s certainly a part of it.

It’s this idea that brands have to be perfect.

I’m not defending any brand that has “must fuck over the planet” in its mission statement. Far from it.
But we hold brands up to such high standards now when it comes to any behavior, almost forgetting they’re run by people. And people sometimes, well, suck. Most don’t, some do. If they don’t suck, you can chalk it up to ignorance when something like this happens.

Look deep enough into any brand’s history though—or their present—and you’ll find something they’re doing or using that someone somewhere disapproves of. Animal testing. Doing business with countries that support terrorism or human rights abuses.

Pick a brand and pick your evil. Enron? That one’s easy.

In a global economy though, how do you keep any brand from becoming evil when they start doing business in countries where some of those things happen? In other words, to paraquote Sean Connery:

What are you prepared to do?

When Dawn says they use their soap to help clean animals affected by toxic spills, we all go yea! But then, their parent company is Proctor & Gamble, who allegedly still test on animals with some of their other brands. So, what are you prepared to do? Stop using all P&G products?

Google pulls out of China citing free speech issues while some say it was more a business move. Still, they get nice PR for them at least as we all go... what again? Yea! But then, Microsoft, Coke and a bunch of others continue to do business there. Do you stop using those products?

Doesn’t the question become not just one of where do you draw the line with corporate wrongdoing, but, just what exactly constitutes wrongdoing, especially when it comes to consumer behavior?

I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t try to live a sustainable life free from products which harm people, animals or the environment, I just think it’s really hard to do it without being an accidental hypocrite.

Disclaimer, since everyone seems to need them: I’ve worked on Nestlé Quik and knew the illustrator who created the original Quik bunny. Now you know.


howie at skypulsemedia said...

Oh man I get to be first to comment!

Someone has convinced brands they have to have a social media presence. I agree they do...BUT that doesn't mean they have to have a fan page or twitter account. Nestle could easy participate by doing things 'outside' social media that get talked about via social media. Why not promotions or specials that get people talking.

Last year Quizno's ran a promotion where the first 250,000 people who went to their website, not a fan page, and gave their email got a coupon for a free sandwich. I posted this on my Facebook update so my friends knew. I did not learn about this promotion via any social media.

I really think Brands need to think of how they want to participate, think of everything that could go right and wrong, and pay someone who knows what to do, vs giving an intern a shot at possibly bringing down the Brand.

And I have not seen one thing yet from Social Media that has pushed the needle is a big way for a major company. Small business sure. Major company? Only incremental sales. Doesn't Nestle already know based on how big and successful they are that they are doing something right without chatting with strangers?

Chris Tackett said...

Good post. I agree with your observation that it can be tough to navigate the American marketplace without contributing in some way to a company doing some bad stuff. It sucks.

But when you asked "So, what are you prepared to do? Stop using all P&G products?" it sounds like you're just throwing up your hands and saying it'd be impossible to live w/o buying stuff from P&G. They are all over the grocery store, so it's tough, but it's not like there's nothing we can do as consumers to make a difference.

I think this is the most-interesting part:

"Doesn’t the question become not just one of where do you draw the line with corporate wrongdoing, but, just what exactly constitutes wrongdoing, especially when it comes to consumer behavior?"

For me, I just periodically take a look at what i'm buying & see if there's a better alternative. Google is another story. But I'm doing better than I was when I started.

Anonymous said...

@Howie ; Yea first!

@ Chris - P&G in the metaphorical sense. Could be any brand where people find themselves having to choose between, but I agree, there are alternatives to everything.