Marketing on Facebook: Heavenly gift or a poisoned chalice?

nutella-packRecently we covered Spring Gully Foods getting itself into a financial pickle but today it is spread makers getting themselves into jams on Facebook.

AussieMite and Nutella have both endured a barrage of unhappiness in social media for different reasons. Let’s explore them and see what we can learn.

Stop loving us

The first case involves Nutella’s parent company, Ferrero.

It sent a cease and desist letter to its number one fan, Sara Rosso, earlier this year because her World Nutella Day site misused the Nutella logo.

This action came despite Ms Rosso attracting 40,000 fans to her page and 7,000 followers on Twitter.

The move led Ms Rosso to announce she would have to close the site and cancel the World Nutella Days she’s been running annually for almost a decade.

It resulted in an outcry on social media with fans outraged that Ferrero could be so callous towards its greatest brand ambassador.

There were comments such as:

Nutella…more nuts in company management than in every jar. Idiots

However, within a reasonably quick timeframe, Ferrero employees contacted Ms Rosso to apologise and sort out a way to protect the brand and enable her to keep the site going.

It seems as though Ferrero has escaped with a win-win because it has protected its brand while keeping Ms Rosso on side.

What would you have done?

My position is that while a brand must defend its positioning and reputation, it must also highly value its fans of goodwill. In other words, the same destination could and should have been arrived at with a discreet conversation, behind the scenes, with Ms Rosso.

Forgive us for we have sinned

aussiemite-packOn the other side of the world, AussieMite has been the target of a social media backlash after releasing an ad in which a woman in church dips her communion wafer in a jar of the yeast spread, and then tempts the priest to try the same; both appear delighted.

The tagline used was: Sacrilicious.

Sydney agency, Grown-Ups, made the ad and marketing blog, mUmBRELLA quoted Elise Ramsey, AussieMite managing director, as saying:

We couldn’t afford to play it safe so the brief to the guys was to get AussieMite noticed and show how tasty our product is. They did that with humour that very much suits our brand.

While some industry critics labelled the ad as unimaginative, some marketers took offence on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

And a core group of social media users also took to the web to voice their opposition.

Ironically, the Facebook page set up by disgruntled consumers, Goodbye AussieMite, has picked up 1000 followers compared to the company’s AussieMite page with 320.

As with Ferrero, AussieMite moved quickly in response to the backlash, removing the ad from its social media pages and apologising on its own sites as well as on the Goodbye AussieMite Facebook page.

To be fair, some AussieMite fans have dug their heels in staunchly, supporting the brand through this kerfuffle, and some opponents have made concilatory comments on the protest page. However, it is not likely to go away quickly, as this exchange shows:

John Woodbury You should lay off Elise, as although she has taken responsibility in this case, I suspect there are other people involved more responsible, such as the advertising group ‘Grown-Ups’. Elise has shown great humility and bravery in handling this situation and as Catholics we do forgive and forget, because that is what God does when we apologise to him in Confession. How do we know Elise is not a victim of a very persuasive marketing team who conjured up the whole idea?

Tori Tracey These people play in forgiveness, but there is a time and place for righteous indignation. Even Christ overturned the tables of the money changers and got angry at what was going on in his house. The Church has become to easy a target and we have quietly taken it, but there comes a time when we must stand up and protect His Bride. I really do not believe their apology to be sincere, there is to much evidence of how deliberate and great they thought this blasphemy was!

From a marketing and communication perspective, this story shows how vocal members of the community can be when you upset them, just as the Nutella story shows how endearing they can be when you listen to and support them.

What would you have done as AussieMite?

Could AussieMite have found other targets for its comedy or controversy?

My position is that AussieMite is most certainly a challenger brand that needs to punch above its weight to be heard and noticed. However, there could have been many other ways to ‘surprise’ us with AussieMite’s must-have qualities, such as:

  • Releaseing shock revelations that some Australian SAS soldiers had been modifying their uniforms to hold AussieMite jars, against orders
  • Rewriting Australian history with some ‘if only’ scenarios – Burke and Wills surviving by using AussieMite to make bush tucker staples taste nice, such as Widgety Witchetty Grubs, etc
  • Having the Australian PM at an official dinner in Paris, clandestinely dipping her French gourmet tidbits in a hidden jar of AussieMite whenever the French president looks away, etc
  • Heaven forbid, I’d even consider running taste test setups like Pepsi ran (they weren’t overly successful back then but they triggered conversation, which might work better in this era)
  • Finding a way to create a lamb baste with AussieMite and either getting Sam Kekovich on board or running a guerrilla campaign next Australia Day

There’s two minute’s worth, I’m sure even more creative options could have been arrived at without risking a backlash from 25 per cent of the population.

Do you have Facebook clones?

Finally, these events raise the issue of Facebook clones, Facebook pages and groups set up by bodies other than the official company.

It pays to keep an eye on the web and social media sites routinely to check to see whether your brand has been copied, lauded, or lampooned by others.

Tools like can help you search social sites, and routine vanity searches on Google (when you search for your own name) should be mandatory.

In a LinkedIn discussion I had with Stephanie Hastie, a researcher from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, she pointed out that alternative Facebook pages are more commonplace than you might think.

‘I was recently involved in a project within the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute where I undertook a content analysis across social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) to document brands’ use of brand elements and the changes made to these brand elements,’ she says.

‘After conducting the research I was really surprised at just how many official looking pages brands have – some had over 50!

‘I doubt these were all official pages.

‘Many were probably set up by fans, but this still raises problems for brands in regards to how they monitor and manage their brand elements on social media.

‘Companies spend a lot of money developing their brands elements and fan (or other) pages pose a risk to the way these brands are perceived.

‘Unsurprisingly, many of the ‘official looking’ pages I came across used inconsistent branding,’ said Ms Hastie.

Perhaps it might be worth finding 10 minutes to start that searching today.




  1. oldgreyfox

    ..or maybe witchetty grubs. If they were widgety grubs Burke and Wills may have been able to build and app and navigate their way out.

    • Steve Davis

      Ha ha, that is a great pick up. I will update the text. You see, there is something about the water at the Brickworks Markets that keeps people alert and cheeky! I really did keep the brainstorming to two minutes … and paid the price!


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