Milhouse: We gotta spread this stuff around. Let’s put it on the Internet!
Bart: No! We have to reach people whose opinions actually matter!
That was a few years ago. But is it still valid?
Bloggers take credit for ruining Dan Rather’s career, among other things. As a whole, the political blogosphere isn’t shy about self-congratulation.
But I find bloggers sometimes delude themselves into thinking they have more influence than they actually do. Read the blogs on the Duke lacrosse situation, and you’d think Duke was on the verge of collapsing into a black hole of political correctness. Read The Chronicle or talk to people, and you’ll find the same complaints about outspoken faculty, but they’re aired within a Duke that isn’t quite as dysfunctional as the blogs make it sound. (Granted, you could rewind to April and find The Chronicle providing a clearer picture of Duke than you were getting on cable TV, where Duke was being painted as some sort of Civil War relic. So it’s not just blogs that can develop tunnel vision.)
I won’t say much on that situation, but I have a better case study: The Noka chocolate controversy. The quick recap, in case the preceding link is a little too much: Blogger wonders why company’s chocolate costs so much, blogger does 10-part investigation, other blogs pick it up and say “wow!”
At long last, the story has hit the mainstream media. But they aren’t just piling on. The New York Times puts the blog furor in the broader context of luxury gift-giving. The Dallas Morning News considers the company’s PR possibilities.
The prevailing advice in the DMN story is to fight fire with fire, which is Starbucks’ philosophy. I’m not so sure. One blogger trots out the “no such thing as bad publicity” line, and I can’t think of a counterargument. Meanwhile, the Noka-sympathetic backlash is building, with one blogger cleverly casting the situation as David versus the blogger. (It doesn’t help that the blogger is anonymous and therefore unable to prove he doesn’t have an axe to grind. Still, I wish the blogs would tackle the questions raised in the original post.)
The bottom line: This doesn’t seem to be hurting Noka’s bottom line. And I’m sure that comes as a shock to the people who hopped on this story a few weeks ago and chortled that Noka’s days were surely numbered.
I’ll stick with what I said earlier:
I don’t see anything Noka’s doing here that differs from typical luxury branding. I’m sure someone could do the same investigation on Prada, finding that they use the same components as cheaper competitors. For better or for worse, creating status around a brand is a skill. The message behind Noka never really was “I care so much about you that I bought chocolate 10 times better than Godiva’s.” The message is, “I have money and will spend it on you.”
Besides, it’s chocolate. It’s subjective. Some people like Special Dark; some like Krackel.
I think Noka’s decision to sidestep the fray is paying off. They’re selling an aura. They’d lose it if they jumped in.
Besides, people who make enough money to buy this stuff probably aren’t hanging out, arguing on blogs. They’re either working in fulfilling careers or flying off to Monaco for the weekend. Or maybe they’re celebrities who don’t know how to operate computers.
So that’s my take on it. I’m sure the five people who read this post will be forever changed.