Building a Brand by Spreading the Happy


There are many factors that give birth to new items and innovation –  including technological advances, newly discovered materials, and of course,  good old creative thinking. Yet it’s said that necessity is the mother of invention and there’s a great deal of truth in that statement. A need can be  created when the raw materials for an existing product or item suddenly are not available.

That was the case for an Italian pastry maker in the 1940’s. Cocoa rationing during World War II had created a shortage of chocolate – not an ideal situation for a pasticcere. So Pietro Ferraro was faced with the necessity of altering his normal recipes. He didn’t have to go far to find a solution. He lived in Alba, Piedmont – an area of Italy renowned for its hazelnuts – and that is what he used to augment his need for chocolate.

One product was a chocolate hazelnut paste which formed into blocks. He saw this as something which mothers could slice and place on bread to make a great sweet treat for their children’s lunches. The kids loved the taste of the ‘pasta gianduja’ the name Pietro had given his paste. He quickly realized that the kids were enthusiastically eating the gianduja  – but not the bread. This presented another necessary adjustment.

Ferraro made the paste spreadable so that the bread would not be wasted. He packaged and sold the spread in jars and named it Supercrema. Over the next twenty years, the spread became very popular throughout Italy as a breakfast staple, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. By the 1960’s, Pietro’s son, Michel, was running the company. He saw an enormous business opportunity and began to expand distribution. He first exported to the U.S. in 1983 where it received the same enthusiasm and customer loyalty it had become accustomed to throughout Europe. 

For over fifty years, the spread has grown in popularity around the globe, becoming the largest product of its kind in the world. The product is all natural using no additives such as preservatives or coloring which makes it more relevant today than ever. The brand has an almost cult like following, to the point that a core group of loyal consumers created International Day for the spread – not many consumer goods can claim that type of loyalty.

At the same time that Michele began to expand geographically back in the 1960’s, the company faced another necessity. The Italian government passed legislation prohibiting the use of words such as super and ultra as names for consumer goods. It was necessary to rename Supercrema. Being forced to change a successful product’s name is never ideal – but sometimes it cannot be avoided.

In this case, the name change to Ferraro’s product became a key factor it its success.  The name was created by using the primary ingredient and adding a seemingly meaningless, but ‘soft’ ending. The result? A name which is easy to say and remember, a name which works in every country which sells the product, a name which is as unique as the product itself – Nutella.

Fearless Brands are often created out of necessity

Nutella continues to be wildly popular throughout the world – Europe, the Americas, Australia, the Middle East – virtually everywhere. A series of situations which necessitated change, adaptation and flexibility were each addressed in a way that has built Nutella into the successful and fearless brand that it is.

Imagine, a group of loyal brand advocates creating International Nutella Day. February 5th is that day – and has been every year since 2007. At one point, the Ferraro Company filed suit against the organizers to have them cease and desist their activities. Loyal fans were both confused and outraged – “They should be paying for this type of exposure.” That is seemingly a fair argument – if you aren’t responsible for maintaining the integrity of a global brand.

International Nutella Day itself, wasn’t the core issue with the company. Rather, there was a growing number of unauthorized events, promotions and activities associating themselves with Nutella. Many of those were not at all in keeping with the essence of the Nutella brand. Ferraro negotiated with the International Day organizers and all is settled. The other activities, the ones which were at odds with the brand and its mission, have been addressed.

There is a great deal to learn from the Nutella brand as you continue to upgrade your brand.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade…If it gives you hazelnuts, make Nutella – The one guarantee in business – in life for that matter – is that things will change. There will continually be situations which make change necessary. The key is to look for the positive – seek solutions which are in keeping with the true essence of your brand. Change needn’t be bad – in fact, it often leads to stratospheric success.

Manage your brand! – Enthusiastic and loyal customers are a tremendous asset to any company and product. However, remember, that while they (usually) have the best of intentions – they do not know your brand strategy, your business plan. They also don’t have any accountability for the impact their actions might have – always – ALWAYS – manage your own brand.

Be authentic – but if you get off track, accept, adapt and change – With its all natural ingredients and lack of additives it became easy to assume that there was a health benefit to the consumption of Nutella. Not according to the U.S. government. Nutella – Ferraro Company – was forced to pay a fine, change collateral materials and advertising to eliminate the inference to health benefits. They did so, again complying with government directives. Then they returned their focus to selling the worlds’ most popular hazelnut spread.

Nutella’s slogan is “Spread the Happy”….great line, isn’t it? Nutella has achieved fearless brand status by being authentic, adapting to change, regardless of what made them necessary. That’s the primary take away from Nutella – that and enjoying the delicious blend of chocolate and hazelnut.

Friday's Fearless Brand

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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