Thursday, May 23, 2013

When Protecting Your Brand Goes Too Far: The Nutella Story

Photo credit: Teymur Madjderey
I remember being introduced to Nutella when visiting my grandmother in Italy as a kid.  I loved Nutella then, and I still do today.  Apparently, Sara Rosso REALLY loves Nutella.  In fact, she founded World Nutella Day, which takes place on February 5th each year, in case you are interested.  Rosso also has an extensive website featuring recipes and lots of other information about the product. 

This year, though, Rosso announced that World Nutella Day would not take place.   Apparently, she received a "cease-and-desist" letter from lawyers at Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella.  The company sought to protect its copyrights and trademarks.  It worried that Rosso was infringing on its intellectual property rights. 

When Rosso revealed the news about the cease-and-desist order, her many fans (also big fans of Nutella) became upset.  They began to write about their frustrations with Ferrero's action on Rosso's Facebook page.  Nutella had a brewing controversy on its hands.

Fortunately, the company reacted fairly quickly.  They caught wind of the negative feedback from many fans of the product, and they backed off.  Rosso was free to orchestrate World Nutella Day each year and to feature recipes and other information on her website.

What an amazing story.   Here's a woman who is the ultimate brand evangelist, and the lawyers almost stifled all enthusiasm.   Leave it up to the lawyers to mess up a good thing!   Actually, there is a great lesson here.  Companies do want to watch carefully for copyright and trademark infringement.  On the other hand, what's better for a brand then an authentic customer evangelist?!  When a company has diehard fans, and not just customers, it should very pleased.  A customer evangelist can provide the type of authentic promotion that a company would have a very hard time creating. 

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