Cell C had no choice but to like Nando’s ad

Nandos Viral CampaignCan you imagine the scene? Nando’s marketing team, agency, digital team and PR trying to work out the best time to release the Nando’s CEO parody campaign. Phone calls to lawyers working out the possible action should Cell C respond, as could reasonably be expected, with a court interdict.

I can almost hear it: “The best time to launch would be mid afternoon Friday — no time for Cell C to react and to get to the courts, so at least we’ll have Friday afternoon and the weekend and probably most of Monday. Yeah, if we can make a big enough splash we will be noticed – that’s perfect. Friday afternoon it will be.”

So off goes the campaign and sure enough Cell C does send a letter to Nando’s. But it isn’t threatening, it’s lighthearted and with it the mobile operator sends a few superfast affordable Whoosh speedsticks.

Nando’s is surprised at the reaction. It even said so on 702 later in the week, and I am sure the agency and everyone else breathed a sigh of relief. I am not surprised at all.

Even a few months back the appropriate response from Cell C would have been to protect its brand. The knee jerk reaction would be a “cease and desist” letter and an urgent interdict. FIFA did that to Kulula. I would be surprised if Nando’s didn’t have a Plan B already in the can just in the way Kulula had.

Even if the Cell C Trevor Noah campaign was a little naive, the management team at Cell C are not and they learn fast. I have no idea if there was a conversation about alternatives but if so, it would have been a short one. In my view, they had no option. The only thing that Cell C could do was play along and show it can “take a joke”.

Cell C has already experienced how the online community can influence the course of its advertising – and this Nando’s campaign was likely to be a hit. It faced an almighty black eye.

In this new world, brands have lost control. Customers will share their thoughts on your brand and because their friends trust them many times more than they trust advertising, customers thoughts and opinions become “what your brand is”.

Cell C got an almighty social media bloody nose because of its Trevor Noah campaign and I think that it learned a valuable lesson. So instead, the company joined the conversation.

I often use water as an analogy to describe the difference in strategic brand management then and now. In the old days you could think of a campaign as water in a hosepipe. You could control the pressure, the direction and you could even switch it off.

In the new marketing paradigm, think of it like the sea which you can never tame but you can understand. And you understand that it can change from a monster to a friend in seconds. Ask any surfer.

You are not in control of your brand. But you can and must be involved in the conversation about it.



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