Nestle’s Maggi is back in the news and, unfortunately, not for the right reasons. Over the last two days, the FMCG major has published print advertisements highlighting the ‘trustworthy’ facts about Maggi. The communication comes as in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to revive a class-action suit by the government against Nestle in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).
According to reports, Nestle, in front of the apex court, admitted the presence of lead, though within permissible limits. The judge asked the company as to why should anyone eat its noodles with lead in it. This sparked another controversy and landed Maggi once again in a soup. However, unlike last time; Nestle India was very prompt in terms of its communication and immediately launched its print campaign to allay any rumours questioning the credibility of its popular brand Maggi.
The ad — ‘Your Maggi is Safe, has always been’ — talks about how the brand has been trusted for the last 35 years and goes on to clarify certain facts about lead. One of which was — ‘Lead occurs naturally in the earth’s crust (present in air, soil, water, grains and other materials)’. Talking about the communication, Nestle India released a statement, saying, “Our approach as a credible, trustworthy and responsible company is to always communicate with consumers on facts, in a simple, clear and transparent tone and manner. What you will see in the print ads to be released over the next few days is just that.”
When credibility is in question, print medium works best: experts
Praising the print ad, Jagdeep Kapoor, CEO, Samsika Consultants, said, “Transparency and promptness are the two most important things in this kind of communication. My immediate reaction to the Nestle Maggi print ad is it is — ‘It is told, it is bold and it is sold’. I liked the ad because it is forthright and any kind of doubt has been reduced substantially.”
Commenting on whether using print as the main medium to target consumers is a wise decision, Kapoor explains, “In this kind of situation, where credibility is in question, print helps. I believe Nestle has learned well from their past experiences and this communication is a proof of that because it puts across facts and not opinions.”
Echoing similar views, Pranesh Misra, Chairman and Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide, said, “Print is basically an advocacy medium and it is faster to implement. People take it more seriously, so it completely makes sense why Nestle India is banking heavily on this medium.”
He goes on to explain that many times, brands are confused whether to address the problem or let it slip by because launching any campaign might lead to more discussion. However, looking at how Maggi reacted, it looks like the brand wanted to act swiftly, without letting the negative news to flare up.
According to a source close to the company, depending on the consumer sentiments, Nestle India will decide on which other marketing mediums to use as part of the campaign. In the coming days, there will be a regional leg to the campaign as well, which consumers will get to see. Last time, Nestle India started its revival campaign, by going aggressive on the digital front.
The 2015 fiasco and how it dented the brand image
The instant noodle brand was banned in 2015 for containing lead beyond the permissible limits. During this period, more than Rs 320 crore worth of Maggi was recalled from the market and Rs 20 crore was given to Ambuja Cement to destroy the packets. This came at a heavy price and the company reported a loss of Rs 64.4 crore, which was its first quarterly loss in three decades. Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta were dragged into the controversy, as FIRs were registered against them for allegedly misleading the consumers by endorsing such ‘harmful products’.
After the fiasco, the reputation of the brand took a major dent because it was not able to address the crisis period effectively. The brand received immense flak for its incompetency and dismissive attitude. There was no communication from Nestle for a long time, as a result of which things went out of control.
Brands like Yippee and Patanjali Ayurved cashed in on the Maggi controversy. They launched new variants and advertising heavily as they wanted to make full use of the negative buzz around Maggi, which finally returned to the market after a five-month ban.
After the High Court lifted the ban; Maggi started with its #WeMissYouToo videos and pushed it on the digital medium. The joy of having Maggi back in the market was celebrated with #WelcomeBackMaggi videos.
From roping in the US-based public relation firm APCO World Wide to getting Suresh Narayanan as the Managing Director of Nestle India, the brand worked really hard to salvage its dented image. Last year, Maggi attained over 60% market share and touched the pre-crisis level in terms of value. Just as Maggi was on its road to recovery, it was hit by this sudden controversy.