Death By Chocolate: The Attempted Assassination of Nestle

Yesterday I was doing my thang on Facebook…checking in with friends, reviewing data for ad campaigns I’m running for clients, etc. I noticed that the Nestle fan page was getting some negative criticism. As I’m unable to ignore a train wreck in my industry, I cruised on by to check it out.

Holy moly. Nestle was really taking it in the shorts. Fan after fan made ranting, sarcastic, caustic and (at times) ridiculous claims, suggesting and/or claiming that Nestle single-handedly responsible for killing orangutans, deforesting the rainforest AND endangering the environment…sounds like a pretty busy Friday at the Nestle HQ.

Well, Mr. Nestle Quick Bunny Rabbit, what do you have to say for yourself??!

I quickly scanned the page for the social media response. It soon became clear that Nestle was ill-prepared for such an attack. It appears they began deleting comments they didn’t like, which incited even more acrimony…pretty soon it was like a feeding frenzy in shark infested waters with people gleefully commenting that Nestles stock prices were plummeting, keep up the great job, etc.

I’ve never worked for Nestle but today I wish that I did…I really wanted to help them dig their way out of this social media mess. Nestle gave us some pretty good examples on what not to do when caught in a negative media attack that goes viral.

  1. Try not to panic. If your social media rep can’t handle dealing with unpleasant and/or unreasonable people then s/he is not well suited for this gig.
  2. Answer everybody who writes. Nestle left a lot of the nasty comments alone, which made them look cold, out-of-touch and quite possibly guilty of what they’d been accused of.
  3. Tell the truth, even if it’s unpleasant. Own it. Because the truth really will set you free.

In this case, Nestle apparently posted some links to information, explaining their position on the subject. This kind of thing really requires someone to engage these people where the conversation started, not by sending them to another site.

Saying “I’m sorry” and “thank you” are two very important components of social media.

Had I been their rep, I would have said something like, “I’m sorry that our business practice has upset you. We have been looking into it, too, and are concerned about all of the things you’ve mentioned. We have made a commitment to have a new system in place for palm oil by 2015. I know that this seems like a long time, but ordering ingredients for products that are consumed by millions of people is complicated and we want to make certain that all steps we take to remedy this situation with high quality products and do not have any other unintended impacts on our shared planet. If you would like to have further dialog about this, please feel free to contact me at SocialMedia@Nestle.com. Thank you for your feedback.” I might have also tried to slide in some examples of where the company does a lot for the community and planet.

People know that companies are, at the end of the day, run by other people who may, from time-to-time, make mistakes. But when you stand up and own whatever is going on, you demonstrate that your company is made of human beings who care about what they are doing and, at the end of the day, do way more good than bad.

After digging a little further I found out that this apparently started because Greenpeace posted an article on their website about what Nestle is doing and suggested a “call to arms” to get people to post things on their pages and other public forums. It was (and still is) ugly and messy…your basic assassination attempt. Is the criticism valid? I’m not sure. Was Greenpeaces method effective? Probably. After all, Nestle stock fell by 1.76% yesterday.

I noticed yesterday afternoon that someone from Nestle posted a comment that they are still learning how to use social media; that was the best thing they could have done because, again, it shows the human element. But the comment has since been removed and replaced with “Founded: Vevey, Switzerland 1866”.

Sigh………………………………

Posted on: March 20, 2010, by : bex

4 thoughts on “Death By Chocolate: The Attempted Assassination of Nestle

  1. Not only do I think Rebecca is spot-on on this, I think she is wicked smart. I took the liberty of looking up the stock history (assuming the negative press may have caused the decline in stock value) and saw an even more drastic picture than the one Bex was painting.

    Shares outstanding (3,650,000,000) at 54.30 CHF (Swiss Franc) on the 16th, those same shares at close of market Friday 53.15 CHF, for a difference of 1.15 (CHF) or $1.09 in US dollars.

    Lets crunch some numbers… and voila, a loss in value of $3,978,500,000.00. How much would have it cost to have a proactive communication plan in place? I’m guessing less than 4 billion dollars.

  2. I completely agree with your blog post. The world of social media has a language of it’s own and one must be very dynamic and up to date to combat criticism.
    Nestle has had it’s fair share of controversy, however, some of it is warranted and it’s about time that people stand up and say that it’s not okay. Check out http://www.babymilkaction.org/resources/boycott/nestlefree.html for even more information on Nestle.

  3. While looking at the posts on the Nestle fan sight one can easily see the mistakes of Nestle’s communication plan, but Greenpeace has some issues of their own. While Greenpeace used to have some credibility with the mainstream culture as of late, not so much.

    It seems that they have gone PETA on use and are hoping for some free PR versus adding any quality value of messaging. This type of shortsighted reactionary messaging can be polarizing and may be even more harmful to a cause than ignoring comments like Nestle has done. If Greenpeace is trying to grow (increase) public awareness and support on a cause, do you think they will grow their base by offering credible information and (now this is really radical) a solution to the problem, or by just saying the company is bad? It appears as if the messaging of groups like PETA and Greenpeace only talk to the people that already agree with them, to me this is not only bad communications, it is a waste of time.

    Was the Greenpeace messaging effective for me? No, not even close. When I go to the Nestle fan site all I see is a bunch of anti-capitalist hypocrites ranting against a company that provides jobs and services (food etc.) to the public, a public that has the freedom of choice to use Nestle products or not.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to do something that I haven’t done in a while… I’m going to give myself a break and get me a Kit Kat bar☺

  4. Not only do I think Rebecca is spot-on on this, I think she is wicked smart. I took the liberty of looking up the stock history (assuming the negative press may have caused the decline in stock value) and saw an even more drastic picture than the one Bex was painting.

    Shares outstanding (3,650,000,000) at 54.30 CHF (Swiss Franc) on the 16th, those same shares at close of market Friday 53.15 CHF, for a difference of 1.15 (CHF) or $1.09 in US dollars.

    Lets crunch some numbers… and voila, a loss in value of $3,978,500,000.00. How much would have it cost to have a proactive communication plan in place? I’m guessing less than 4 billion dollars.

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