Tag Archives: consumer marketing

Nutella defends itself in France

A while ago, I took a look at the different flavors of Nutella marketing in different countries. (Disclosure: I eat the stuff. I know it’s not good for me.) Currently, I’m spending a few weeks in Aix-en-Provence in France. Nutella is in the news and finds itself under attack from food and health writers because of its use of palm oil and its somewhat sketchy record as an actual food item. The Ferrero company, which owns the brand, took out a very expensive, two-page ad in Le Monde today (see illustration).

Ferrero, the owner of the Nutella brand, took out a two-page ad in the print issues of Le Monde from Saturday, November 17.

The sign being held on the left says, “Nutella is delicious, but why does it contain palm oil?” The ad copy talks about responsibility and choices, and states that the attacks on Nutella because of its use of palm oil are unfair. It explains why Ferrero uses palm oil—supposedly, because it allows the manufacturer to avoid hydrogenating fats and the possibly resulting trans fats. Palm oil used in Nutella, the copy says, comes from sites in Malaysia and New Guinea, and is meant to be entirely sourced from sustainable production by 2015, after which year no forest will be lost because of it.

Then the ad tells us that, “contrary to received ideas and certain opportunistic communications,” palm oil is not dangerous if eaten as part of a balanced diet. It’s better than butter, the writers mention, which isn’t saying much—many things are better for your health than butter, including (probably) most dirt. And, we can review a little table that compares the nutritional demerits of a Nutella tartlet with comparable products. Nutella comes out a little better.

The problem is that nobody eats just one little bit of Nutella and then does it again in a couple of months. Consumers, and especially their children, really like this product a whole lot. Forget it about a balanced diet. They suck it right up. While they may be factually correct, Ferrero’s statements are disingenuous—I’m sure they understand how consumers consume, just like the tobacco companies probably have a good sense of how and when smokers smoke.

Not to be all down on Nutella and Ferrero, the website they refer you to, mangerbouger.fr, educates people on some of the basics of nutrition and health with sections such as “Why move?” or “What does eating healthily mean?” Some of the recipes are very nice and sound healthy, too. The site is not affiliated with Ferrero or Nutella, but with the French Programme National Nutrition Santé, a government initiative to bring healthful thinking and practices to food and everyday life that’s been around since 2001. But, if you want more from the Nutella folks, there’s nutellaparlonsen.fr, “Let’s talk about Nutella,” which expands on the content of the ad.

Le Monde itself complements or maybe even balances the ad with a short article on page 28 of its weekend magazine (see illustration).

On the same day, Le Monde published this little Nutella-themed article in its weekend magazine. You need to know one key fact from the article to understand the costly two-page ad.

We learn that 105 millions of jars of Nutella are sold in France every year—imagine—and that “France’s youngsters have fallen into Nutella.” France is the world’s biggest market of Nutella consumers, and 75 percent of French households buy the product. The government is thinking to quadruple the tax on the use of, you guessed it, palm oil, which is not considered sustainable or healthy. Writer Jean-Michel Normand jokingly talks about a “Chocolate Party” similar to the American “Tea Party,” and notes the planned tax might be a tad high. But he also mentions that Nutella is a “caloric bomb” and that the label on the jars, somewhat mendaciously, doesn’t list “palm oil,” only “vegetable oil.” And, as he mentions, Ferrero has stated in any case that it will never change the composition of the product.

There you have it—your Nutella news from your French correspondent. If you eat it, do so responsibly, just a little bit today and nothing for the rest of the week. Of course. I knew you didn’t need reminding.

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Perfect marketing for a good cause: Have a drink in Vancouver

What happens when you provide an item everybody needs and link it to a worthwhile cause that requires no additional activity from consumers? You can raise lots of funds, for one thing.

Take water, for example. Everybody needs it. You probably drink it yourself.

In Vancouver, BC, you can help the homeless by purchasing a small bottle of water. You won’t be badgered about it, and it’s unlikely you’ll feel smug. Depending on how thirsty you are, you might not even notice what you did.

On a warm day in June, I walked into Café Bica and got some We Love Van water. They sell other water there, but I l liked the simple design. And, visiting from Seattle—how could I not? I almost recycled the bottle before I noticed the statement on the label: “10¢ of every bottle of water you purchase is used to care for Vancouver’s homeless.” The organization’s website explains how the donations work and introduces the Lookout Society through a short video. It also tells you why they chose the kind of plastic they use, and addresses some common misconceptions about plastic recycling.

When in Vancouver, drink lots of water.

If you’ve been to Vancouver, you probably do love it, so the drink’s name will appeal. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world. As you probably know, housing is very expensive there, hard-drug addiction and alcoholism are huge problems, and a large homeless population lives right next to wealth and elegance. If you live there, you meet the homeless, day after day, unless you take steps to avoid and ignore them. The Lookout Society has a strong, successful program in helping people in a dignified, gracious manner.

The We Love Van website, Facebook page, and Twitter stream use the same, appealing visual brand and an upbeat tone. I’m intrigued by the fact that the homeless support message is treated very lightly—no images of miserable people, no exhortations, no moralizing. The Facebook page shows a few images of homeless people, but most of the content is really about one’s affection for the city and sustainability concerns.

I know that it’s very easy to judge the homeless and be bothered by them, all the more so when you are made to feel as if you are lacking in integrity if you don’t help. We Love Van entirely avoids that emotional mess by attractively presenting a necessary product and letting water drinkers feel good. Imagine what one could accomplish with this approach. After all, there are other things everybody has to have. Connectivity. Operating systems. Electricity. Gas. Think about it!

I hope you’ll be thirsty in Vancouver.

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Three flavors of Nutella marketing

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.

Nutella USA

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.

Nutella Deutschland

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.

Nutella Italia

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.

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