Under The Sway Of Social Media

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Brand management

Earlier this year Nestle, which is the biggest food company of the world, faced criticism on its Facebook page for using palm oil in its product,  “Kit-Kat”. Palm oil that is used widely in many products from margarine to lipstick is being produced mostly in Malaysia and Indonesia. However, picking style of fruits of palm oil tree thrashes rainforests and threatens 90 % of the livelihood of endangered. As a result of this, every year 5000 orangutans die.

Approximately ten months ago Greenpeace started a war against Nestle KitKat procuring palm oil from suppliers who are destroying the rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orangutans towards extinction. It changed Nestle’s UK homepage into a Nestle Killer mockup and pulled a video in YouTubea and Vimeo by asking its supporters to protest against Nestle by sharing this video, changing their profile pictures to Nestle Killer, and boycotting Nestle products. The video showed a Nestle employee eating an orangutan finger in a KitKat pack. Eventually Nestle apologized and changed its supplier.

Nestle case is a piece of evidence that social media is a powerful tool that should be taken seriously. Digital Global Leader of “Proximity”, Reza Ghaem Maghami, who was a spokesman in marketing summit organized this year, emphasizes that social media is one of the best ways of understanding and knowing consumers who become more informed over the goods and services than seller and even producer.

Surely, social media plays a key part of decision-making process even by displacing marketing campaigns based on emotional positioning. According to a research conducted by McKinsey, recommendation from a friend is 50 times more effective over decision of buying than recommendation made by a campaign. Therefore, messages formed and shared by users and comments change the way of conventional marketing by highlighting the concept “social media”.

However, Maghami believes that we have only 2-3 years left to catch the magic of social media. Because social media will become intolerable when all brands use it excessively in a few years. He also says that it is not important to have thousands of followers in social media such as Facebook and Twitter by emphasizing the importance of sphere of influence of those followers. Not quantity but quality is important, he thinks.

As it is considered in terms of brands, level of being “connected to social media” hold key for gathering data from both positive comments and negative criticisms. For example, P&G uses social media very well and effectively. Maghami reminds that P&G resorted to improve the quality of a cleaning product since it took seriously a negative criticism in social media. P&G had developed a cleaning sponge for its “Mr. Proper” brand and there was a forum to evaluate this product. Although moms had very positive comments about the product, only one negative comment changed the future of the product. According to this negative comment, the sponge easily fell asunder and hence could not be used. The company revised the product at the end of that month by sharing this comment coming from social media with ar-ge department. At the end, there was no complaint about product.

In this context, social media should not be ignored. All brands are under the sway of social media. The important point is that social media is not only a trend but also a way towards strategic management of brands.

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