When I discovered Nutella, it was love at first taste, and the chocolate hazelnut spread has been a staple in my pantry ever since. It’s not just me – the product is so beloved that a super fan created World Nutella Day back in 2007. Fans create recipes, make art, write poems and shoot videos all in the name of Nutella love, then share them on social media. These fiercely loyal fans are an advertiser’s dream customer, willing to enthusiastically promote the product all on their own.
Instead of riding the wave of goodwill and embracing their fans, someone at Nutella decided World Nutella Day was improperly using the their trademark and sent the organizer a cease and desist letter to force her to cancel the holiday. Sure, Nutella did an about face when they realized how boneheaded they were acting, but the damage was done. News outlets picked up the story, portraying Nutella as a big corporate bully who doesn’t care about their customers. World Nutella Day was saved, but Nutella suffered some pretty embarrassing publicity in the process and hurt their relationship with their number one fan when they tried to control everything related to their brand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a big corporation or a small business, there are people out there who love you and those fans are a valuable sales tool. They talk about you on social media, they share your product with their friends, they recommend your services to others. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like you don’t appreciate them, which can happen if you try to keep tight control your message. Taco Bell does a great job of embracing their fans zaniness by sending out personalized gear to super fans and using fan submitted photos in their marketing. Let your fans know how delighted you are in their dedication by reaching out to them and they’ll continue to be cheerleaders for you. When they refer their friends and networks to you, it’s a quality referral since your potential customer has heard all about you already. You’re not starting from scratch trying to earn their trust and you’re reaching people who you might have missed through traditional marketing.
It’s natural to want to be in control of your business’ message, but sometimes, letting go a little is the best way to move forward.