Do you like Nutella? I admit I do. I know it’s not exactly a health food. Nutella used to be a luxury item in our house, but by now I buy a new plastic container whenever we run out. Many years ago, Nutella came in glass jars and became dry and brittle if you didn’t eat it soon. And, if you can imagine that, it was even harder to wash off spreading knives than it is today. First brought to market in 1964, Nutella once was an artisanal, not an industrial, product. The original recipe was based on a dessert in North Italian “cucina povera,” the cooking of the poorer people.
On a slow day, I found it interesting to take a look at the Italian, French, and U.S. Nutella sites and informally compare them. Considering that Nutella is a simple breakfast spread, I found an astounding amount of messages and content to review. You may think people eating Nutella the world around are all about the same—they like the flavor, the smell, the sensation of spreading the product on warm toast, and how nice it feels if you don’t eat too much of it. But the marketers clearly don’t think so. A lot of this may seem trivial, but a lot of thinking and discussion clearly went into it.
The U.S. site presents a large, static picture of a woman and three children.
They are all smiling. Each of the children has an untouched slice of white bread with Nutella, smeared with great regularity, no closer to the edge of the bread than about an inch. Links above and clickable graphics below take you to content about the product’s history, sweepstakes, merchandise, and Facebook page.
The Italian and German pages are much more fragmented—they look like European tabloids. They also have rotating content highlights at the top level of the site. Currently, the European soccer championship games are still going on. The German site offers Nutella-filled glasses with pictures of the national team’s players. In typical German fashion (I remember), there’s not a square millimeter left Nutella-free on the surface of the half bun that illustrates what you’re supposed to do with the product. Cookbooks are very popular in Germany, and so is authoritative research. The site lets you purchase a Nutella cookbook, read Nutella-sponsored research about German breakfast habits, and buy fine German cutlery from marketing partner WMF.
The Italian site plays you a video with opera-like, Nutella-praising vocals on the soundtrack. I’ve seen many times that Italian marketing has fun playing with opera-related clichés. The people depicted here are healthy-looking, youthful adults. No families with children, which you see on the U.S. and German sites. Italian Nutella wants to be cool and sexy, whereas U.S. and German Nutella aims for a happy family around the breakfast table. And, as you probably know, many contemporary Italians are reluctant to have children. With all the different graphical elements, I find the Italian Nutella homepage a bit too busy (but I’m from Germany, of course) and didn’t want to stay long, but it’s very typical for Italian consumer marketing.
As one might expect, the Italian Nutella site features the product’s history very prominently. You can review several sections with historical content and download a PDF if you’re really into it. The voice of the copy here is full of pride. If you are really serious about Nutella, read the surprisingly loquacious blog. The writing uses a personable, occasionally authoritative style, especially when it addresses parents who are to give their children a good, Nutella-enhanced breakfast. I did enjoy the entry about edible utensils—cups, spoons, and stirrers that slowly dissolve or can be nibbled. Probably not the best things to put into your body, but remember where we found this content. There’s also an entry about an iPad app that lets you keep your coffee warm by setting the cup on the device. Is that really a good idea?
The German site has a list of FAQs, but very little additional content outside of special and co-marketing offers. The U.S. site offers more material, including a page about Nutella and Family. The content is partly derivative of an entry on the Italian Nutella blog, but the tone is a little less formal and it’s more unabashedly a marketing statement. Do the Nutella marketers think of Americans as family types that can tolerate marketing messages and glean interesting content from them better than a lot of other people? The history section of the U.S. site is very brief, but it does show you a picture of Pietro Ferrero, who started it all. Somebody must also have thought that the American viewers like illustrations, but don’t want to see too much in the way of words and detail.
The treatment of social media is interesting, too, and maybe it echoes the maturity of Facebook acceptance. In many ways and over and over, the Italian site suggests you join and like Nutella on Facebook. The U.S. site is quite restrained about that—one hint in the southeast corner of the pages is enough. And the German site? It’s even more matter-of-fact than that, with a small-scale invitation at the bottom left.
I could go on, but won’t. But now I wonder if Nutella tastes different in Italy, Germany, and the U.S. There’s one way to find out.