Thanks to Facebook and other social media channels, the Nestle Company has an enormous public relations mess on their hands. The question is, can they further use social media to fix the problem? Other downtrodden companies such as Toyota and various airlines are embracing social media channels in hopes of repairing their current poor image. Unfortunately, Nestle’s social media embrace is being more than spurned by consumers; it’s also drawing large quantities of vitriolic comments, viral video parodies, animated parodies of the company’s reaction to the reaction, and so on.
The gist of the situation is that environmental protection group Greenpeace, who are known for their unorthodox and sometimes heavy-handed ways of bringing attention, created a parody video (but it’s somewhat gory, not funny) on YouTube of Nestle’s KitKat candy bar product. The video suggests that the production of a key ingredient, palm oil, helps further the destruction of rainforests, which in turn threatens endangered species such as the Orangutan. Greenpeace says that the Paradise Forests in Sumatra in particular are suffering a record-breaking deforestation rate.
Nestle reacted by requesting that youTube take it down. Viewer comments suggest that it was taken down, but that hasn’t stopped the video from reappearing on multiple video sharing sites, in multiple copies. This sharing of the video is making it go viral.
In addition to the Greenpeace video, there’s an animated parody of Nestle’s reaction. In it, two animated characters (using xtranormal.com’s web software) pretend to be Nestle employees and talk about how they’ll get the Greenpeace video removed by citing copyright violation. (In truth, their trademark has been used in the Greenpeace video without permission, so this isn’t really a copyright issue, as far as I know.) Now, there are parody logos popping up that look like Nestle’s KitKat(tm) packaging but replace the brand name with the word “killer”.
Now if that’s not enough for Nestle, consumers are attacking them on their Facebook Page. The 140+-year-old Swiss-based company’s Page may have over 93K fans (at this writing), and some may be legit, but many people are joining just to voice their opposition, reminding people of past Nestle controversies, namely their breast milk substitutes. CNET’s The Social blog has a screen snap of the past comments on the Nestle Facebook Page.
With an increasing number of companies using social media, especially Facebook Fan Pages, to interact with consumers, it’s important to get it right. There’s an obvious lesson here for companies: if you do something wrong and people attack you in social media, being defensive gets you nowhere. There might be a lot of apathy about many important worldwide concerns, including the environment, but the social media makes it easy for those who like to be vocal to actually be vocal and instigate concern. Grassroots movements even inspire efforts such as CO2 Neutral Profile, a Facebook application that lets users neutralize their carbon emissions said to be generated from daily use of Facebook. Once grassroots concern goes viral, social media can turn anti-social as far as your business is concerned.