Brand Lies: Nutella held accountable for misleading advertising

Consumers have always made brands accountable for their promises. Now, more than ever, they are also being made to pay for misleading claims.

Nutella is latest brand being forced to compensate those it deceived into believing their product was healthy.

Ferrero marketed their iconic ‘Nutella’ brand worldwide as “an example of a tasty yet balanced breakfast” when combined with milk, orange juice and wholewheat bread.

The claim from a Californian mother, and supported by a class action, was that the advertising made them believe the product was healthy.

Last week, the case was settled in favour of consumers with reports claiming they now share in about $US3 million as compensation.

Forbes cynically reported “$3 Million for Americans too stupid to know Nutella is not the healthiest breakfast”.

On one hand, it does seem to be yet another frivolous claim. Common sense should prevail. The ingredients and nutritional information are clearly printed on the label.

However, it is another example of how advertising can actually damage the brand. Disregarding the brand’s equity for short-term thinking and achieve publicity for all the wrong reasons.

The message was not only misleading, it seems it is off-brand. Is Nutella really a nutritious or healthy spread?

There is always a fine line between stretching the truth and telling damn right lies. In this one, Nutella pushed it too far – and they got caught out. Although, it only in the USA so far.

Ethically, I agree with brands being held accountable, to a point. However, I also agree with Julie Ryan Evans, a blogger at The Stir, that parents also have a clear responsibility.

“I’m sick of parents blaming everyone from McDonald’s and their Happy Meal toys to cereal companies and their jovial cartoon characters for trying to make their kids fat and unhealthy, when it’s our job first and foremost to determine what foods they eat and don’t. It’s a little thing called personal responsibility,” she writes. “So congratulations on the lawsuit, but I find it ridiculous, and it’s frankly insulting to consumers and mothers who DO read labels”, said Evans.

For brand owners, the real learning is don’t treat your audience like idiots and don’t try to be something you are not.

The most successful brands are those who remain true to who they are and constantly seek new ways to build powerful brand stories and truly deeply connect with their audience.

Michael Hughes
Director of Brand Strategy


  1. Most people watching a Nutella TVC would have a bit of a chuckle at it… pfft nutritional. There are quite a few companies that take this kind of strategy with their marketing (golden arches). But seriously even they must be having a bit laugh if they think their product is ‘nutritional’.

    I do strongly agree your point about society being able to use a bit of common sense. Sure advertising should tell the truth, but lets not suck out the fun in advertising. Some energy drink claims if I drink it I’ll ‘grow wings’. Does that mean I can sue them because I never grew wings!?

    Regardless how you look at it being off-brand is damaging in many ways. People with commonsense laugh at you and people without common sense get fat then try and sue you. Great topic.

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