Going Nuts About Macadamia Nuts

Sometimes people are just nuts.

If you live in this part of the world, you have not been able to miss the nutty episode in Korean Air flight. Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of chairman of Korean Airlines Cho Yang-Ho, had nut rage, as her macadamia nuts were not served according to Korean air protocol: the bag of nuts was unopened (which is naturally totally intolerable behavior in first-class flight). Cho Hyun-ah forced the head steward to kneel and apologize as punishment and was kicked off the aircraft when it returned to the gate. The whole event delayed Korean Air flight from NY to Seoul for 20 minutes. The nut rage might just be a tip of iceberg for bigger corporate culture problem for the troubled Korean Air.

The most intriguing fact about the whole incident is that the sales of macadamia nuts have soared in Korea. Sales of nuts in online marketplaces are up 149% from the week before the incident. This reminds us of the old adage:

Any publicity might be good publicity.

Top-of-mind is the first thing you have to solve for any marketer, brand or product category. The biggest challenge is that your audience does not really know, think or care about you. Before the incident no one really thought about macadamia nuts. When you keep talking about them day after day, suddenly you start craving for them. It also adds more value to the nuts. When you serve them in meetings, you have a good icebreaker and nuts become a conversation topic. Currently macadamia nuts are the superstars of all the nuts, because they have social currency. They are not just nutrition; they are part of the popular culture.

After horsemeat scandal, the demand for the actual horsemeat soared. Again the same reason behind this: before the scandal people had not even thought about eating horsemeat (which is actually way more ethical meat than the traditional beef). Negative event actually sparked positive effects for other category. Brands miss these opportunities all the time, because they are too scared to tap into more controversial topics even though the potential gain would be huge. Real people do not live in sugarcoated advertising dreamland, but in real world with whole range of emotions (both positive and negative, and everything in between).

Brands should seize the real-time opportunities.

Brands understand the real-time marketing in a wrong way. Too often they try to ride existing fad and force their brand brand into it. In reality it works the opposite way. You inject that real-time event to your brand and add value in that way. Therefore macadamia nuts have currently much more social currency than, say, walnuts, although latter ones are arguably healthier. Walnuts did not spark crazy behavior, macadamia nuts did.

For every brand and product, it essentially boils down to the compelling story. Currently macadamia nuts are just damn interesting story. Nut manufacturers and retailers should try to seize this opportunity while it lasts.

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