As many CPG companies work harder to demonstrate understanding of social media, it was inevitable that one of them would provide evidence to the contrary. It's just rare you find examples this good.
Nestle, in a fit of intellectual property protectionism, informed its 90,000 Facebook fans last night that: "We welcome your comments, but please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic -- they will be deleted." Some users have begun using the company logo, which features a nest of birds, to depict environmental damage. (The company has been embroiled in a debate over its use of palm oil, among other things.)
Early in what's now a 100-comment feed, Paul Griffin offered that he's "not sure you're going to win friends in the social media space with this sort of dogmatic approach. I understand that you're on your back-foot due to various issues not excluding palm oil but social media is about embracing your market, engaging and having a conversation rather than preaching!"
The Nestle moderator's response: "Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it's our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus."
Nestle didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The page, which appears to be an official one, states the obvious under its logo-as-profile pic: "Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments."
A few faithful have spoken out, including one who called the angry commenters "party poopers." Some gave Nestle props for protecting its intellectual property and "brand standards." One, claiming to be a Henri Nestle descendant, asked users to "respect my ancestor's wishes." The moderator, apparently assuming that consumers care about these things, offered a link to an About.com article about branding and its importance to marketing strategy.
Users reiterated that Nestle's moderator needed to watch its tone, and that the company ought to examine its PR strategy. Tracy King, who identified herself as a marketing and PR company head, commented: "I'm horrified by the tone of the Nestle moderator. I completely understand the corporate desire to curb any manipulated logos which show Nestle in a negative light, but there are two problems with the approach used here: 1) the attitude of the Nestle moderator absolutely stinks 2) this is Facebook, which is not an easily censored platform."
Of course, no social-media fight is complete without threats of boycotts. Jagos Golubovic wrote, "I was a big fan of your products, but now, when I saw what you guys wrote, I think I'm gonna stop buying them." Others said they'd just stop being fans.
This being a) social media and b) an epic #fail, the storm quickly reached Twitter, with dozens of tweets about the debacle this morning alone. "Watch Nestle self-implode and abuse their fans on their own Facebook page," tweeted Sarah Conley, with a link to the offending post, from the handle @StyleIT. On what appears to be its official handle, @Nestle has remained silent -- it's last tweet is from Wednesday morning.