When the Maggi ban was first heard of, social media went buzzing with hilarious memes as well as genuine queries from consumers. According to an analysis done by Simplify360, it was found that the general tone of the posts on the social media sites, tend to suggest a high degree of disbelief and hurt that a trusted brand would stray from the path. Topics like #Maggiban, #MaggiInasoup kept on trending for weeks. On June 5th, the global head of Nestle decided to withdraw all the variants of Maggi from India, citing that the current scenario is not conducive for the brand.
The brand which was earlier accused of keeping a ‘dismissive’ and ‘defensive’ tone on social media, is now working towards changing it. It roped in US based PR specialist APCO Worldwide to tide over the negative publicity. Even though, the last post on the Facebook page of Maggi was on June 5th, the brand is making an effort to reply to each query posted on its wall with a reply like ‘We have engaged with authorities and are trying our best to come back soon’. On Nestlé’s Facebook page, as well, the brand has been posting information like ‘We are one of the most active entities in the world when it comes to food testing’ and ‘we have the same rigorous approach to food safety in India that we have everywhere else.’ They are basically trying to clear the air on controversies surrounding Nestle products.
According to a Nestle spokesperson, “We have been, and continue to be 100% focused on resolving this situation and getting Maggi Noodles back on the shelves. Hence we are doing everything possible to facilitate this and are continuing to engage with consumers across all medium, including social media.”
Reportedly, since 18th June, Nestle has published 8 print advertisements asking customers and retailers to return back their stocks in exchange of cash from the company’s representatives. It has opened toll free numbers operated from three call centres and emailed contact route. This information is also being conveyed on social media, whenever there are queries from people on returning the Maggi products.
There is also a Facebook page titled ‘We Support Maggi’ made by the diehard fans and they refuse to believe that their favourite Maggi is unsafe for consumption. Inspite of the ban, there are reports that, Maggi is now available in the black market, a single packet of Maggi (Rs 10) is being sold for Rs 102.
Commenting on whether Maggi has taken the right social media strategy, Vinish Kathuria, Chief Operating Officer, Digital Quotient said, “There is no right and wrong thing in this case. Being a global brand, there must be few guidelines which they have to adhere to like- Don’t speak much in moments of crisis. The reason being, sometimes over communication can infact magnify the initial problem and they may face some legal consequences because of it. But from my point of view, right now the communication route which Maggi has taken is quite passive, which loyalists might not appreciate. It is very important to keep these followers on your side; a certain appreciation for the fans is not a bad idea. Don’t be aggressive, but a non-product consumer centric strategy is recommended.”
Vipin Dhyani, Founder & Chief Creative Director, Thoughtshop Advertising & Film Productions feels the only reason why the brand should continue with its social media communication is because, if you keep mum, then things have a tendency to blow out of proportion. “So whatever the situation might be, whether positive or negative, the brand needs to communicate in a polite and a positive way. Even if, they don’t have any backup plan, they should assure people that they are working towards it. Maggi has played a vital role in everyone’s life and has been like their best friend in moments of crisis. It is now very difficult for people to accept, that their favourite brand which boasts of several varieties is not there,” he cited.
He further added, “Every brand works towards 100% efficiency and this controversy has left a huge dent in terms of the loss for the company. People are aware, that this must be one of the cases and obviously the R&D would love to save the product. They should infact, do something similar to what Cadbury and Coke did, when they were faced with crisis. The brands used their celebrity endorsers in the campaigns, and showed them in some R&D factory, telling the viewers that their products are absolutely safe for consumption.”
Echoing similar thoughts, Jitto George, Sr. Account Manager, Gozoop elaborated, “What matters the most to a loyal consumer is about their favourite brand being true. Nestle may have ceased proactive marketing content on Maggi's social media properties but they sure haven't stopped communicating with people on social. Furthermore, they are also giving out information such as test results as far as their other products are concerned.”
He also highlighted that these cases are not new and have been observed in the past too. What matters the most is how Nestle will take control of this situation and comeback stronger. “I believe their product and marketing teams are working a 24 hr shift to make things right. And if the brand is believed to be true by its consumers, then there wouldn't be much of a problem as people would anticipate. I am of the opinion that they should continue this communication on social as Maggi is no longer just a noodles brand, but is a way of life for many Indians,” said George.
According to Puja Nathani, Creative Head at Team Pumpkin, Maggi is an iconic brand and it is not just a product which people consume, but they have an emotional bonding with it. You can’t suddenly ask people to disconnect with a product which has been there for ages. Also until and unless, the brand has something substantial to share, they won’t be able to post anything. So if they have any new development or announcement to make, then they can again start posting things on their pages, or else Maggi is going completely on the right track.”
According to reports, Nestle is working to bring another snack in the market, to fill up the absence of Maggi.