If you didn’t know, Nestlé have had a rough week, which I detailed yesterday.

Today’s post is a continuation: What should Nestlé do now? It’s easy to say what they should’ve done – but now that they had this mess on their hands, what is the way forward?

I’ve got 4 steps for them, that if they do, I believe could turn this around for them:

1. The Focus: Change Perception

I said yesterday that it no longer matters what the facts are. The whole sitution was sparked by a Greenpeace video that claimed Nestlé were using a certain oil from a certain supplier that was destroying rainforests.

Whether this is true or not is irrelevant.

Because whether or not Nestlé do or don’t use that oil, people now only perceive that 1] they do use the oil, and also that 2] Nestlé are covering up, doing Social Media badly, and only care about profits.

Ask yourself: how do you know, for sure, that Nestlé buy this certain palm oil? But that doesn’t matter – because you perceive that they do, and we believe that if the crowd perceives it, then it’s probably right.

Of course, many people don’t even know about the palm oil part of the story. They just know that Nestlé have been tragically managing their Facebook page.

Hence their focus now should not be to change the facts. Their focus must be to change perceptions. A hard job.

2. The Concept: Match Spreadability With Spreadability

The protesting against Nestlé is viral. I’ve been discussing the qualities of ‘viral’ in a series of studies on Spreadability vs Reach. Direct reach is what broadcast media is all about – the number of eyeballs they can get their message directly in front of.

Spreadability, however, is not about direct reach, but about the ability for a message to spread organically from eyeball to eyeball, based on the nature of the message (exemplified in this case study on the Rage Against The Machine vs X-Factor).

The campaign against Nestlé, and subsequent anti-sentiment, is spreadability. Nestlés poor response was to issue a press release – a direct reach tactic – that simply does not match the power and the spreadbility of the campaign against them.

The solution for Nestlé lies in creating a spreadable campaign to match the spreadable campaign against them.

3. The Change: Fully Embrace Social Authenticity

Nestlé have two options.

They could ignore it all. Most people don’t know what’s happened online, and it will blow over in a number of days. That’s the nature of Social Media. But Nestlé will not able to get away with it a second time, because Social Media will have grown.

The better option is to embrace it all. Nestlé must realise that the three parts in this terror, 1] the video, 2] their poor handling and 3] the public backlash, all stem from an inherent Social disconnection on Nestlés part, both ethically and relationally. Nestlé are in denial.

Nestlé, in the face of this total Social disconnect, denial and inauthenticity, must fully change and embrace Social Authenticity. This is not a fake authenticity. This must be a full, repentant and sincere turn around.

Only fully embracing Social Authenticity will change the perceptions about them.

Only fully embracing Social Authenticity will create the necessary spreadability to match the spreading protest against them.

Ask yourself: if Nestlé issued an unprecedented style of apology, and took an unprecedented level of action, wouldn’t you take notice?

4. The Execution: A Campaign Of Transparency

To embrace Social Authenticity, Nestlé must do what people believe it is not doing: be transparent.

Being transparent means being open about its practises, and also open about what people think about it – the second of which they lost through censoring the comments. My campaign woud be thus:

First: I would suggest they create a nestlereviews.com website, similar to ASOSreviews.com. This website shows the sentiment that people have about them. This act would show the sincere change in Nestlé, and highlight that they are no longer censoring, but want to know what people are saying, and provide that info back to the public – even to their own detriment. A bold move that demands attention. They then set a goal to shift this sentiment.

Second: They need to become personal and not corporate by filming videos of themselves openly apologising and stating their change – with no excuses or further waffle. This shows that they are no longer trying to hide.

Third: A campaign to change their ethics, over a period of time. On the back of the first two suggestions, this would be the place for Nestlé to educate people on how they aren’t as bad as people to perceive to be. The point is that no one is wiling to listen at the moment, so the first steps must be carried out to earn people’s attention again.

Cost Factor:

  • A nestlereviews.com would cost them no more than £30,000.
  • A smart Social Media consultancy to assist them for a little while – let’s be generous and allocate £80,000.
  • Posting regular videos (firstly the apologies) and then updates on their progress (which they have already in their press releases) – no more than £20,000.
  • Changing their policies on palm oil: already happening.
  • Apologising: swallowing a lot of pride.
  • Total: £150,000. Social Authenticity doesn’t cost much. It just takes reality.


I’m not saying Nestlé are or are not ethical. I don’t know. I do expect people think they are worse than they are due to the hype. But the point remains that if they are indeed ethical, no believes they are. So they must shift perception before they can educate.

Only an exceptionally strong move by Nestlé can turn this around – hence my plan above. If they did this, with sincerity, it could be a turning point in their organisation. But it won’t happen overnight. They have years of bad vibe to shift.

I expect some of this is controversial. With all the anti-Nestlé sentiment, a suggestion that Nestlé can resolve this probably seems blasphemous. But for me, this only illustrates all the more that what they face is a highly emotive and spreadable protest that can only be addressed through an equally spreadable and compelling campaign.

More importantly, what do you say? Would you go with this plan if you were Nestlé?

Archived Comments

  • http://www.stuartwitts.com/ Stuart Witts

    It would be great if ALL companies were to adopt an open and transparent approach to their business. My fear is that the majority of larger corporations have far more unpleasant skeletons in their closets due to the pursuit of profit and so an open social strategy requires them to tread carefully around the corpses.

    However, I truly believe in the power of social media and whether they tip-toe around the issues now or fling open their closet doors and sweep away the cobwebs the time is coming when ALL companies will have to take responsibility and answer to their customers.

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Excellent follow-through, Scott.

    When will you pitch it to them?

    Do they have a Twitter handle?

    What can we do to support you – we, your followers?

    Can you involve them/this project with LikeMinds and offer the results as a case study at your next meeting?

    150-large sounds cheap ;)

    Best, Robin :)

  • http://benjaminellis.org/ Benjamin

    The issues here are business ones, rather than communication ones (see the long running dialogue with the WHO). This is one of a number of long running issues. The only way Nestle will be able to shift perceptions is by making some strong strategic tells, and from a business point of view they have made it fairly clear that they don’t want to do that.

    That means items 2,3 and 4 are rendered inoperable, because of the number of people that are prepared to articulate negative sentiment towards the brand.

    Nestle have two options: 1. Do what they have done for the last few decades: ignore the ‘haters’ or 2. Make a strategic business move towards fair trade or independently audited CSR, which is the precursor to any other move.

    They are looking increasingly out of step with their competitors, but as many people have boycotted the brand for years I doubt they are worried about additional revenue loss.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Stuart.

    Yeah – it *would* be great. The question is – do they dare to do it?

    I agree that brands are facing a future where their dirty laundry will be aired if they don’t become transparent.

    How does this effect charities do you think?

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Ben

    Thanks for bringing your sharp mind to the discussion. I agree, Nestlé have made it clear they don’t want to make those strategic moves.

    Knowing how schooled you are, I’m reticent to disagree – but I do think that actions like I’ve detailed would create a large mental shift. It would be such a radical turn that it would demand attention.

    Would it be a quick fix? No way. But I do think it’s the only way to turn it around – it would take a long time to action.

    Nestlé have already (from what I’ve read) made a move towards Fairtrade – but no one knows and no one cars – unless they make the move to make EVERYTHING Fairtrade.

    Only something of this ‘EVERYTHING’ or Social Autheniticity talk will get people talking about them in any kind of positive light compared to the mass negativity.

    Of course they’ll probably go and ignore everyone anyway. But if they do read this, and they do ask for help, I’ll bring you on board ;-)

    Thanks Ben for commenting. Also – I need to speak to you soon if possible – I’ll email you!

  • / Scott Gould

    Robin you are incredible.

    What you we can together is fine a better contact than just their Twitter account (which is bombarded)

    Is there someone on LinkedIn we can get to?


  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    We need a senior contact point with traction. Will do some digging at my end.

    How about posting an open letter with your case study in the press?

    Robin :)

  • / Scott Gould

    OK – I will sort an open letter and get it moving!

  • http://twitter.com/atownley Andrew S. Townley

    I agree with Benjamin that Nestle isn’t likely to take the kinds of strategic changes required to successfully implement your plan (I also agree that to really help them would cost more than 150K!). I was part of a project with them several years ago (no direct contacts for you, I’m afraid), and “forward thinking” wasn’t exactly on the tip of my tongue.

    From what I saw, they were very traditional, very conservative, and seemed reasonably comfortable in that state of mind. Like Benjamin, I don’t know how hard a hit the revenue impact will actually be in the long term, but I think that they should be seriously thinking about a new consumer engagement and interaction strategy in light of both this event and the untapped potential impact that it represents.

    One key difference between what happened this weekend vs. what has happened before is the level of visibility. Previously, unless you were looking for it or happened to catch a quick soundbite on a major news channel, you could pretty-much ignore Greenpeace and other similar groups if you didn’t agree with their views.

    Having illustrated the potential impact of an organized campaign on social networking sites and their ability to get their message before people where they actually like to be (e.g. Facebook), they have a much greater chance of connecting to people who are more impressionable – like teenagers – and who might not be as prepared for the shock tactics being used – like non-tech-savvy moms. You still have to be a fan of the page to get the updates, but I’m sure it was quite a shock for people who enjoy Nestle products and had made the connection for that reason.

    Hopefully, Nestle and all other major brands getting into the Social Media space will give this stuff some serious consideration as part of their Risk Management program rather than thrusting unprepared staff or inexperienced business partners onto the front lines with little more than a stick and a baseball cap.

    Thanks for the series of posts.

  • / Scott Gould

    Of course to help them it would take more money, and it is unlikely that they will.

    But lets discuss what, if they were going to act, what they should do this week – because then these points to stand – and these points could be used for many other companies in similar situations.

    Certainly Nestle are unlikely to care about this. My wife has no ideas what’s been happening, and neither have millions upon hundreds of millions of others.

    But if we consider Rage Against the Machine v X-Factor, there is a strength to SM that cannot be denied in the years to come.

    Glad the series of posts have been useful!

  • http://benjaminellis.org/ Benjamin

    Go for it! I do think they have a huge opportunity to make a big turn around – they can do it with the right support. The question is, will they?

  • / Scott Gould

    Thanks Ben. I’m trying! :-)

  • http://benjaminellis.org/ Benjamin

    The Rage Against the Machine / X-Factor piece of PR genius is a book in itself :) .

    We should catch up soon!