No control

No control


Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go.

James Arthur Ray


In March 2010, Greenpeace posted a video on YouTube, asserting that Nestlé’s popular Kit Kat bar contained palm oil produced in areas where rain forests had been destroyed. Nestlé responded swiftly, forcing removal of the video for alleged copyright violations, which led to a guerilla campaign against the company. Greenpeace reposted the clip on other websites and used Twitter to spread the word of Nestlé’s ‘censored’ video. Outraged individuals posted angry messages on Nestlé’s Facebook page, substituting the word Killer for Kit Kat.  Within a few months, Nestlé was forced to give in to Greenpeace’s demands, announcing in  May that they would rid their supply chain of any sources involved in the destruction of rainforests.

What are some of the lessons of this anecdote?  Let’s focus on a few.

Companies can no longer hide. If your company tries to hide anything, people will know, their friends will know, their tribes will know, word will spread, and your reputation will suffer. In today’s connected world, there is simply nowhere to hide.Even multinationals can be exposed to and affected by mass movements created on the internet.

Operating in a world of openness obviously offers opportunities to positively build your brand and your story; if your product or service is good, your customers are empowered by technological resources tolet the world know about you.

We can no longer control the flow of information. As Mike Butcher (TechCrunch) put it so aptly during a PLUGG conference : “When things go wrong, word travels fast”

Nestlé thought they could stop the showing of a video they deemed detrimental to the company’s reputation. However, in a world where individuals can share their concerns virtually, publish almost anything freely, and mobilize groups rapidly around a cause, trying to cover up your secrets may increase public resentment against you.

It pays to be transparent. Forward-thinking organizations are coming to view the loss of control over the brand message as an opportunity. If your own messages are clear and authentic, if the experience you provide to consumers is first-rate, let others speak for you. Let them tell their stories.Let transparency work for you.

As Yoann Le Berrigaud, director of e-commerce at Mathon explains: “It is important to speak up, and to allow your customers to do the same. This is risky; letting customers speak freely can make one feel naked and vulnerable. But it also allows us to position ourselves, on Facebook for example, as a company that organizes a truly open community around its brand. It allows us to truly build trust with our customers”

Written by Esther with the material from the forthcoming book of John Sadowsky.


  1. Federico Krause 14 years ago

    Good article Esther! The episode that came to my mind as I was reading the article was Domino’s employees’ video and the response from their CEO.

    It is another example on how the delay to respond with transparency affected the brand image and the value of their stock. Here is an interesting article about it.

  2. Esther 14 years ago

    Dear Frederico, thank you for your reply and interesting links to the Domino case (quite a pun, actually…). Mass hysteria over two people messing with pizza combined with a slow response… a highly inflammable combination. Regards, Esther

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