How Nutella made Ségolène Royal bent, or when the corporate advocacy™ comes to rescue an iconic brand…
The plea of Ségolène Royal on the set of Le Petit journal on June 15, 2015, asking for consumers to stop buying Nutella, has revived the debate on this product. The new hobbyhorse of the Minister has, however, reared and sent her directly to the moat of the Ministerial contrition.
This episode was predictable, as Nutella is not any other brand, it knows how to maintain its reputation and defends its image.
Behind the legend, a real communication strategy…
Upon its arrival on the French market in 1964, Nutella was nothing like today’s giant. In just twenty years, four brands succeeded each other (Giandujot, Supercrema, la Tartinoise, and finally Nutella) and two significant changes in the recipe occurred, between Giandujot and Supercrema and then between la Tartinoise and Nutella. Then the product sought to unravel the breakfast market, a very tight segment to change, a challenge which extent should be measured.
In a record time, the novelty has indeed become tradition. To be a breakfast giant, it had to win a new legitimacy, meanings to appear as traditional French produce. It has precisely been the brand positioning for fifty years. Just past the 70’s and its early notoriety, Nutella’s ads evoke the expertise and experience of the product, as exemplified by the signature “20 years of experience always make the difference” in the early 80’s. The authentic dimension that seems to be the natural attribute of the Nutella brand is actually a discourse built from the start for the creation of a single business purpose: to give the product all the attributes of an authentic and traditional product.
However, the situation has changed and Nutella undergoes more and more important criticisms. From the accusation to use palm oil and phthalate through the class action in California, critics raised. The latest by Ségolène Royal intended to put it up among the most criticized products along with Monsanto… But she was to realize quickly that Nutella is not Roundup and one does not attack such an iconic brand with impunity.
…Effectively based on strong corporate advocacy™
All these criticisms are indeed swept by Nutella aficionados, united around the slogan “don’t touch my jar!”. Brussels in 2010 had already failed in an attempt to force Ferrero marking its product with a tag saying “Dangerous product, promoting obesity.” But in 2015, it is not this fans’ community, nostalgic of childhood’s breakfast or adolescence snacks, who led the Minister of Ecology to contrition. According to her, it is primarily the company’s employees who strongly protested. But the Italian government at the highest level too, since the wife of the President of the Council, Mrs Renzi was filmed eating Nutella. Across the Alps, Nutella is not only an iconic brand but a national champion and an economic giant, as the Italian media, immediately mobilized, pointed out. However there is nothing but a very classic situation. Let us remember Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister at the time, sipping Vacherin in front of the cameras during the listeria crisis of 1987. The surprise came from Greenpeace who spoke in defense of the multinational agribusiness Ferrero and stress its progress to limit its environmental footprint as part of a partnership with the NGO.
Employees, public authorities, NGOs: to mobilize its main parts-stakeholders is an essential asset in case of crisis. But to be able to do it, it is necessary to have previously developed a constructive dialogue with them.
This is the challenge of corporate advocacy™, which intelligently deployed, becomes an effective firewall to corporate reputation.