Fans – the cream to your marketing coffee

~ The collaboration era and how not to treat your fans ~

Social outreach agency
If you want fans, give them a nice
cup of coffee.
Wait, have I missed the point? 
A recent Vocus article identified that, since the dawn of time, man has seen the succession of seven marketing eras. The article also states that we're only just entering the collaboration era, which puts the consumer in the driving seat and focuses on “real-time connections and social exchanges”. In this context, the power of the fan grows tenfold and turns into one of the biggest marketing tools for companies and brands. 

By Charlie Stroe

Professor Henry Jenkins literally wrote the book on fan cultures and the power of the fan. He was one of the first academics to address the importance of fans, not just for the success of the media products they love, but for setting collective intelligence and social participation in motion. His theory is relevant to the realms of Star Wars and video games, but also applies to the thorny field of marketing.

Nutella vs. Nutella
The importance of collaboration between a brand and its audience becomes most evident when the relationship fails miserably. This is exactly the case of Nutella and their fan who initiated World Nutella Day.

Earlier this year, Italian company Ferrero, the makers of Nutella, served their most loyal fan with a cease-and-desist letter. Nutty chocolate spread lover, Sara Rosso is the founder of the international day, which has been celebrated on February 5 for the last seven years. In May 2013, however, Sara was asked by Ferrero to put an end to the chocolate festivities.

Nutella, we like you, but you were nuts to do so
Since its founding, World Nutella Day had accumulated nearly 40,000 likes for the official Facebook page and more than 6,500 Twitter followers. According to Rosso, the official website and the social media accounts were created without the manufacturer's permission.

Despite this, marketing 101 logic dictates that this initiative was nothing but positive for the brand, because it gave its fans a chance to share information and recipes using one of their favourite products, and celebrate its chocolatey goodness.

How many companies spend enormous budgets trying to stage such marketing stunts, and still fail? Nutella didn't have to lift a finger for it, but instead of riding the wave, it decided to make a big splash by taking action against its fans.

Let them eat Nutella
After rioting fans took to Facebook to express their anger, Ferrero announced that it had stopped action against World Nutella Day. It seems the process was initiated by a routine brand defence procedure, activated as a result of some misuse of the Nutella brand on the Facebook fan page. It would seem that, overwhelmed with negative feedback, Ferrero later contacted Sara Roso, and found the appropriate solution to keep online.

The entire world rejoiced at the news, Nutella remained a household name and everyone lived happily ever after. Or did they? This unfortunate situation hasn't left a very deep scar on the Nutella brand, but it certainly demonstrated the growing importance of fans for companies and products.

The lesson to learn for any brand is that treating your fans well is a crucial aspect of a company's marketing, legal and general business strategy, because fans are the best brand ambassadors you'll ever find. And they do it simply because they love your product or company.

No brand defence procedure will ever justify action against its fans.

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Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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