Nestle’s Bogus Copyright and Trademark Complaints Fuel a Streisand Effect for Greenpeace

This week, Greenpeace posted a gruesome anti-Nestlé commercial on YouTube complaining that Nestlé SA buys palm oil from companies that destroy the Indonesian rainforest to plant oil palms.

The 60-second video depicts a bored office worker enjoying a Kit Kat, which, rather than being the popular chocolate-hazelnut ladyfinger-style confection, appears to be a chocolate-covered ape finger. As he munches on the treat, it oozes blood over his chin and across his keyboard, shocking his co-workers. “Have a break?” reads the on-screen text. “Give the orangu-tan a break.”
(The Globe & Mail)

Fewer than  1,000 people had viewed the video, which supported the appearance of a hand-full of protesters who paraded in front of the Croydon headquarters of Nestlé UK. They wore orangutan costumes and carried signs that had the word “Killer” executed in the familiar red-on-white Kit Kat font…and they went away.

Then Nestle’s legal and social media team made things worse. For future reference, here’s how not to respond.

#1 File a bogus copyright takedown notice.
There is no copyright issue in the video at all. But even if there had been, doing so only elevated the issue. YouTube took down the video, and moments later it popped up on Vimeo. The story was now no longer about an obscure video, but about a corporation abusing IP law to stifle speech.

#2 Debate on Facebook with sarcasm and wholly bogus trademark threats.
Fueled by the bogus takedown, some anti-Nestlé visitors went to the corporate Facebook page to complain (see coverage in CNET).  Some of the fans used parody images of the Kit-Kat trademark. Nestle’s social moderator compounded its self-imposed injuries by copping some attitude, and threatened that would remove altered versions of their marks.

#3 Retreat and stop the madness.

Finally, under fire, the Nestlé rep apologized for snapping back at fans. “This (deleting logos) was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We’ve stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude.”

Two possible lessons:
Turkeys Go with Success: The bigger you are, the more stakeholders you have, the more likely you’ll have those who hector you. Be smart, be sensitive to their point of view, but above all be thick-skinned. The ad was pretty disgusting, but Nestlé lowered its standards in response.

Let negative conversions die out that don’t reach scale. This one may have been at the tipping point of being at scale, but entering the conversation with a bogus DMCA takedown notice set the wrong tone.  A softer touch wouldn’t have fueled the fire.

So, what do you take away from this cautionary tale?

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