When I first came to Germany in 1989, I became enamored of an ice cream bar on a stick called Nogger Choc. It was similar to a favorite Good Humor bar variety from my childhood, the name of which I no longer remember. Both had an outer chocolate shell, coating a creamy wedge of ice cream, and in the middle, as a crowning conclusion to the the whole taste experience, a delicious hard, chunky, chewy chocolate core.
In 2001, Nogger Choc was taken off the market by Langnese ice cream, a division of Unilever, never to be heard from again. At least that’s what Langnese, and many consumers, must have thought. But in 2008 Langnese reversed course and reintroduced Nogger Choc. According to a presentation by Edelman Digital, it was the largest selling new product launch from Langnese.
The successful reintroduction of Nogger Choc was initiated by, and executed through, social media and online communities. Above-the-line communications were not part of the picture. And the impetus to bring back the brand didn’t originate with Langnese, it was thanks to a group of Nogger Choc passionate consumers.
It all started when Benjamin Gildemeister launched an online petition directed to Langnese, after he discovered that there were many others like himself who longed for the return of their beloved Nogger Choc. Over five-thousand people signed. But even more people, over 16,000, became members of the “We miss Nogger Choc” community on StudiVZ, a German online social network for students.
Langnese was impressed by the passion of these brand lovers. And here’s what they did that was really smart. They realized this was a business opportunity that could be best fulfilled by collaborating with the very online community that was calling for the comeback of the Nogger Choc. And they initiated that comeback by starting their communications right where it had all begun — in the social web.
They kicked-off with an online video of the marketing director and brand manager announcing that Nogger Choc was back and thanking the community for alerting Langnese to the “big mistake” it had made in taking the brand off the market. By engaging with the community to spread the word in blogs, forums and other online communities, Nogger Choc attained 150,000 impressions online. That established the platform for generating traditional PR around the relaunch in mainstream media generating an additional 40 million impressions. (All figures from the Edelman Digital presentation.)
All-in-all, a winning case for the power of online communities and social media, complete with happy end. Or is it? There appear to be a few clouds on the bright new horizon for Nogger Choc. The same social web that was the springboard for the relaunch is yielding a number of critical voices. Some Nogger Choc fans claim the product isn’t the same as the one they know and loved. Among other things, they say the chocolate core is too small and soft. If that’s the case, Langnese should have known better. You can’t pull the wool over the eyes, or the taste buds, of your most passionate consumers, whose disappointment and critique will spread like wildfire through the online community. And from there it could eventually be picked up by more mainstream media, just as the relaunch was.
I haven’t yet tried the resurrected Nogger Choc, so I don’t know if it’s as delicious as the one I learned to love when I first came to Germany. As soon as I do, I’ll let you know.