Nestle’s Negative Publicity in Cyberspace – Social Media Failure

In 2010, Greenpeace® released a controversial video on YouTube regarding food giant Nestle®’s source for palm oil for their products.

The specific product targeted was the Kit Kat® bar, and the video made a play off the Kit Kat® slogan “Have a break… have a Kit Kat”. Greenpeace® claimed that Nestle®’s source for palm oil in Indonesia had dirty hands in destroying rainforests which were natural habitats for orangutans.

In addition to the slogan, the Greenpeace® video also mimics a Kit Kat® commercial, beginning with a bored office worker shredding paper for his boss for hours. He pulls out a Kit Kat® bar and bites into it, not noticing or caring that the bar is actually a bloody orangutan finger, and drips blood all over his face and keyboard.

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The video was posted on YouTube®, and went viral. Nestle®’s legal team took quick action, and had the video properly removed from YouTube. But in today’s day and age, a proper legal solution is not always a practical overall solution. Through social media channels on the internet, GreenPeace® supporters reacted strongly to Nestle®’s action, viewing it as an attempt to silence GreenPeace® and their movement. Once coupled with Nestle®’s takedown actions, the video transformed into its own beast overnight around the globe on social media networks.  Individual supporters began reposting the video all over the internet, and I assume Nestle® realized that for each video taken down, GreenPeace sympathizers would only become more emboldened, and only more videos would pop up; a publicity nightmare.

This is an example of how legal solutions are increasingly intersecting with public relations due to social media. While the legal solution did not fully achieve Nestle®’s objectives, the public relations department slightly better, releasing this letter from Nestle® to Greenpeace®.

Despite the letter, I would have recommended Nestle® to immediately deal with the video head on. A general strategy would be 1) acknowledgement of the video, 2) a response page offsite from the Nestle® main page (but include a link from the main page), 3) a social media campaign to educate individuals on Nestle®’s practices and what Nestle® was doing to ensure the safety of orangutans and rainforests, and 4) once a policy shift was made, to publicize it! During my research for this blog, it took me some time to even find the letter in the link above, only showing up 5th in Google® search results for a search on “nestle changes policy on palm oil”.

If you are going to put a good foot forward, put it all the way in front!

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