Ferrero Embraces World Nutella Day, Backs Down Its Lawyers

PHOTO: Jars of nutella hazelnut chocolate spread, manufactured by Ferrero S.p.A., sit in boxes on a shelf inside a supermarket.

Fans of Nutella can once again breathe easy—at least the ones not allergic to nuts.

Great had been their disbelief in recent days, following the announcement by Sara Rosso, founder of World Nutella Day and foremost amateur champion of the peanut butter-like hazlenut spread, that she would be cancelling her annual February 5 event and taking down her nut-worshiping website.

These steps, she said, were in response to her having received a cease-and-desist letter from the spread's Italian maker, Ferrero.

It was as if Joan of Arc had been told to stop promoting France.

"What the hell?" wrote one outraged fan on Nutella Day's Facebook page. "You've done so much to promote them. Why would they want you to stop?" Another said Ferrero should be paying Rosso.

"This is sad news," wrote another fan, who went on to say that the turn of events had caused her to lose respect for Ferrero.

The company at the time said nothing.

Rosso, too, has said little. She confirmed to ABC News that she had received the cease-and-desist request in mid-April, and that it was the result of Ferrero's seeking to protect its copyrights and trademarks. She declined to release a copy.

On her website, she told fans she held out hope for an amicable solution.

One apparently has been found.

Late today, New York time, Rosso forwarded to ABC News a hot-off-the-presses Italian news item quoting Ferrero as saying the whole thing had been one big misunderstanding: Its lawyers had simply been responding reflexively to what they took to be an infringement.

The company was quoted as saying it wanted to express sincere gratitude to Rosso for her passion and its gratitude to all the fans of World Nutella Day.

Companies have had to evolve their strategies about who gets to use their brands and trademarks with the evolution of the web.

"These new platforms let people start playing with your children—your brands, your most valuable assets, which you're incredibly proud of. You feel protective, very uncomfortable," says Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU's Stern School of Business. "But this also a huge opportunity, because the more you let people be emotionally invested in your brand, the stronger it is."

He notes that the Four Seasons hotel chain now lets its customers review their experience right on its own website. "The smartest brands are arming their evangelists. That's where these people screwed up: most brands would kill to have an evangelist like this. On the other hand, to their credit, they reacted quickly and turned the situation around: a self-inflicted wound, but not a fatal injury."

For those of you who are counting, World Nutella Day is just 260 days away.

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