Blog impact

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.

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2 Responses to Blog impact

  1. Michael says:

    I don’t think the DallasFood blogger is a no-fun Marxist who would fault us our “luxury goods” and inefficient gifts.

    It’s a question of degree. If you want to mark up your goods by 30%, 40% hell, 100% over your costs and go after the “high-end” market with a bit of crafty advertising and fancy packaging, go right ahead, it’s the American way. When the mark-up ventures into the 2500% range (multiples of even your high-end competitors) and you try to justify your outrageous prices with provably false claims of singular quality or uniqueness, I think that crosses the line between clever brand management and outright fraud.

    The DF article was right to call these charlatans out. More to the point, if anyone I was dating, aware of said article, bought me NoKA chocolate anyway, I would have good cause to question their intelligence. Buying this stuff is not saying “I want to spend lavish sums of money on you, object of my affection.” It is saying “I am a fool,” and you know what happens to fools and their money.

  2. bdure says:

    To a point, I agree with you. I think it’s interesting to learn that Noka’s chocolate can’t really be as unique as they make it sound.

    Yet some of the DallasFood guy’s claims are subjective. He thinks the designs aren’t as interesting as other chocolate-makers’ designs. That’s his call.

    I wouldn’t want to marry anyone who bought me Noka chocolate, either. We’d surely end up fighting about money at some point. Mrs. MMM and I don’t have that problem — I get my hair cut at Hair Cuttery and buy most of my clothes at Old Navy. (And I’m over 30! By several years!)

    But I’m just a little skeptical of the blog-mob mentality, and I often think it ends up mobilizing a choir rather than converting the heathens. You and I wouldn’t have been Noka’s target audience, anyway — if I can buy an iPod and a Toblerone for the price of one box of Noka, I’m taking the former. Noka’s customers don’t seem to be slacking off.

    So at the end of the day, we’re just making fun of the ultra-rich and those who spend like they are.

    Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad thing, I guess.

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