Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

An Open Letter to Nutella: Why Did You Eliminate Your Greatest Marketing Asset?

My dearest Nutella,

For decades your hazelnut spread has turned everyday consumers into product purists. From brownies and cookies to hot chocolate and crepes, Nutella has been the cornerstone of a delicious treat.

As you’re aware, since 2007, Sara Rosso—arguably your most passionate superfan—has hosted World Nutella Day. She love(d) your product so much that she wanted the world to dedicate a single day—February 5—to embracing it.

What she did was nothing less than astounding. On the World Nutella Day website, Rosso has gathered more than 700 recipes, tweeted and shared on Facebook the favorite sayings, stories and links of Nutella fans and, most important, encouraged everyone to try Nutella just once.

But on May 25, all her hard work will have been in vain. That’s because you inexplicably shut down her tremendous efforts, sending a cease-and-desist letter to her mailbox—the sort of action a brand might take against a brand hijacker, hacker or activist. 

Author’s Note: Per a report on Ad Age posted the morning of May 22nd, a few hours after this article was published, Nutella has reached out to Rosso and saved World Nutella Day, stating that their outreach was simply “a routine brand defense procedure that was activated as a result of some misuse of the Nutella brand on the fan page.” I think it’s obvious that someone was asleep at the wheel (can there really be such a disconnect between the brand team and legal team?), but good to see that they’ve changed their tune. This announcement renders this article moot, but there’s still value in the message. I hope you read on. 

I’d like to explain something we’ve learned about fans like Rosso. She is a rare breed. Fans like Rosso don’t come along often, and for many brands they don’t come along at all. She generated free positive press from the likes of NBCCNN and ABC (credit to HuffPo for sourcing the links). She even built social-media presences with more than 47,000 fans and followers. 

Sara Rosso is a bona fide Nutella superfan: a consumer so passionate about Nutella that she has dedicated her precious time to furthering the brand’s cause. She’s the type of fan that brand managers dream of—creating content on behalf of the brand and sharing it with her following of other superfans and casual fans, who then pass the message along to potential fans. This superfan activity helps the brand’s message spread exponentially, at little to no cost to the brand.

I didn’t know there was a World Nutella Day. However, I now know that there isn’t going to be another one. So not only have you eliminated one of the most impressive superfan-created content-marketing activities that I have ever seen, but the story of the holiday’s cancellation is garnering national attention. You’ve turned a positive into a negative, and I haven’t the slightest idea why.

It’s funny that something like this has come up, if only because embracing the superfan is at the core of many of our social-media strategies. It’s what expanded a community of “Mother Lovers” (fans of the show How I Met Your Mother) from zero to more than 2 million in less than two years. It’s what keeps that community’s People Talking About This (PTAT) percentage above 20 percent (well above the industry standard). The ability to celebrate the passion of a brand’s fans is exactly why social media is such a powerful marketing medium for brands.

We have a category on our blog called Consumers Control Brands. That’s not meant to be taken literally, of course, but we strongly believe that in the post-advertising age, it’s the conversations between people—the content they’re sharing and creating across a variety of publishing channels—that can spell success or failure for a brand. So it’s a fool’s error to think that one can fully control one’s own brand. Your attempt to control the Nutella brand by eliminating World Nutella Day has not, in fact, controlled the message. Instead, it has spawned negative press that will be read by thousands, if not millions.

So what did you accomplish? 

I don’t mean to come off as brash (though I’m sure I did). All of us here at Story are passionate about creating engaging branded content, and it’s heartbreaking to hear a story such as this one. But there’s still time. If you’d like to save your story, we’d love to help.  


Jon Thomas
Editor-in-Chief, Post-Advertising

P.S. Sara, if you’re reading this, bravo. Regardless of what Nutella has decided to do, your actions are utterly impressive, and I’m sorry I’ve only now noticed them. We should have been applauding you for years. 

Photo Credit: allison.hare via Compfight cc

  • Steve

    Great post. Until now, I too have never heard of World Nutella Day nor have I even tasted Nutella. I asked my wife if she has ever tried Nutella and she told me she used to eat it as a child growing up in Poland and that I would probably like. I now plan to buy a jar, I just hope the taste isn’t bitter sweet. Disclosure: My comment has not been Nutella brand approved.

  • Jon Thomas

    It’s actually really good!! Too rich (for me) to lather on a sandwich as you would peanut butter, but putting it on graham crackers or an english muffin, or including it in a dessert recipe is awesome.

  • Michael Ellis Day

    “can there really be such a disconnect between the brand team and legal team?” Seriously? Good god yes. That disconnect is the part of this story I find the LEAST surprising.

  • Jon Thomas

    Fair enough. Though that’s a MAJOR disconnect that comes down to common sense.

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