Jarring social media failure: Nutella’s personalised branding campaign hijacked

Nutella jars

A personalised branding campaign by Nutella has backfired after the campaign was hijacked by social media users and images of the popular chocolate spread with the word “oops” ended up on website dedicated to quitting sugar.

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Nutella, manufactured by Italian company Ferrero, launched its “Make Me Yours” campaign this week, creating a website for people to order their own personalised label of Nutella and an associated hashtag, #mynutella.

But the campaign got off to a rocky start, with an email spruiking the new campaign ended up being made an example of by Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar website. The site quickly responded by personalised a jar of Nutella with the word “oops”.

Social media users also had fun by posting images of customised Nutella jars to various degrees of humorous effect alongside the #mynutella hashtag.

Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations, told SmartCompany this morning campaigns that involve and engage the public achieve greater awareness than campaigns using traditional advertising.

“In this sense, it is getting good awareness and publicity,” she says.

But Reaney says she believes Nutella’s campaign failed on two important fronts.

The first is in relation to the company not properly targeting its pitch, Reaney says, pointing out I Quit Sugar picked up the campaign’s press release and quickly turned the messaging around.

“It backfired in that sense, the company lost control over its messaging,” she says.

“When you hand the reins over to the public – you expose yourself to potential backlash. And sometimes that’s a good thing.”

“In this case however – I’d say it’s a PR fail – given the target market of Nutella and them inadvertently pitching the idea to a sugar-free site/blogger.”

Reaney says the campaign missed the mark because it strayed from Nutella’s traditional audience.

“Nutella is a brand that’s marketed to families, this particular campaign it’s not families being engaged, it’s probably people in teens and 20s having a bit of fun (with the label),” she says.

“That’s what’s generated the viral spread of the campaign.”

Reaney says there are similarities and differences with Woolworths’ “Fresh in Our Memories” campaign, which also involved a personal branding campaign being hijacked.

“Earlier this year we saw Woolworths with its Anzac Day campaign going in with good intentions but hijacked. The end result is insensitive messages,” she says.

“This campaign is more light-hearted… but at same time, given the audience of Nutella, I’d say they’ve missed the mark.”

Reaney says it is good practice in PR and marketing to have contingency plans in place.

“I thought the agency would have pre-empted this,” she says.

“The key lessons are to align your campaign to your target market [and] test it with a few people in that market to see if there is any chance of backfiring.”

“The other is always anticipate and pre-empt any negatives that can go wrong with a campaign and what steps you would have in place to resolve it.”

Reaney believes SME marketers should be cautious about using personalised branding, despite it being tempting.

“It’s an area of marketing that people are latching on to,” she says.

“People are really taping into knowing so much about their customers and personalising messages.

“That’s how they’re getting through marketing clutter, but there is a great degree of risk involved.”

A spokesperson for Ferrero Australia told SmartCompany this morning the company was “happy that the majority of Nutella lovers are enjoying the rare opportunity to personalise a jar of Nutella with their name”.

“Although some people have chosen to use the campaign as an opportunity to create and post less than appropriate images online, most consumers have embraced it in the manner it was intended,” the spokesperson said.

*This article was updated at 1.02pm on September 18 with comments from Ferrero Australia



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