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A month ago, the graham cracker brand Honey Maid launched a new program that aimed to redefine “wholesome” by telling the stories of interracial, single-parent and gay families. The idea was to align the 90-year-old Honey Maid with a modern yet steadfast narrative on what makes for wholesome.

Families might’ve have changed, Honey Maid suggests. But “wholesome” — with both its moral and health connotations — never will.

Here’s the original video produced by Honey Maid (which is owned by Mondelez International) and created by Droga5, New York:

Accompanying it were longer profiles of real-life families on YouTube, like Jason and Tim — a married couple raising their two sons.

Side note: Their lives are pretty pedestrian, and almost boring — like a lot of our perfectly ordinary suburban lives. But that’s precisely the point:

The original video, which aired nationally in early March, received lots of public complaints for featuring gay and interracial couples.

You can guess what those complaints actually said, and if you guessed words like “disgusting,” “immoral,” “wrong” and “boycott”… you’d be in the right neighborhood.

So, what’s a brand to do? Hide? Nope.

Hope it blows over? Nuh-uh.

Instead, Honey Maid responded, borrowing a page from Alamo Drafthouse, which famously skewered an irate customer service call in 2011, and other brands that have made lemonade out of unnecessarily sour lemons.

In its case, Honey Maid turns hate into love, literally. It also took this opportunity to reiterate what the brand stands for; it underscored its bigger story (again!). And it also hired artists to help, something I’ve talked up before, when Airbnb used artists to tell the story of what it stands for, too.

Writing at MarketingProfs today, Carla Ciccotelli offers advice for brands dealing with haters, especially in our social media world. My favorite line from her post is this: “When dealing with complaints, think of the bigger picture and the effect public complaints will have on your business.”

I love the part about a bigger picture — especially when it helps a company make it clear what it stands for. And also — and this is gutsier — what it clearly won’t stand.

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19 Responses to Honey Maid Takes On Haters, and Now I Want Graham Crackers

  1. LOVEd this. Your observations and the campaign and response.
    Thanks for drawing my attention to it.

  2. Doug Kessler says:

    Standing ovation.

    A brand with balls.

  3. Mark Hogan says:


    Thank you for this post. I was not aware of this campaign. Honey Maid is a brands that understands it audience and its voice

  4. Mack Collier says:

    “Proving that only one thing matters when it comes to family…Love”

    If that had been the message of the original commercial then no one would have said a word.

    Just like I don’t want the social media experts I follow on Facebook talking politics, I am getting bored with crackers and cookies jumping on hot-button social issues.

    Emphasis on jumping-on. It all seems a bit too opportunistic, to be honest.

    • Ann Handley says:

      That’s an interesting, take Mack. My take is a little different, though: I don’t see crackers and cookies and cereal (Cheerios, too) as jumping on a social issue as much as recognizing that Americans (and their customers) look different in 2014 than they did a generation ago. The smart brands know they have to embrace that multiculturalism and new reality to be successful.

      In Honey Maid’s case, this was also clearly a deliberate effort to align a 90-year-old brand with a more modern and relevant narrative, based on who its customers are.

      I think the “love” theme WAS the message of the original: “This is wholesome” ultimately revolves around the “family love” theme. The haters made it a news story.

      Was that the original plan all along? Did Honey Maid expect and plan for it in an “opportunistic” manner? And if they did… so? Is that wrong? Great broader questions….

      • Mack Collier says:

        Honestly I think this was a very orchestrated effort, and that’s why I’m not buying it. Even in the ‘Love’ video you added above, what we’re supposed to take from that is that the only negative comments around that commercial came from the ‘haters’ or ‘intolerant’ people. So Honey Maid took the ‘hate’ from the ‘haters’ and turned it into Love.

        Of course, the ‘hate’ came from both sides, as it always does when you deal with hot-button issues. Go to YouTube and look at the comments on the original video. Plenty of hateful and intolerant comments from people that don’t like the fact that the video showed a male couple and attached the ‘This is Wholesome’ slogan. And there’s also plenty of hateful and intolerant comments from people that AGREED with the male couple being in the video. Which is pretty ironic.

  5. Alyson Stone says:

    Standing ovation to a very wholesome brand.

  6. Ann, thanks for sharing. I hadn’t seen the original video and now I’ve seen them both. LOVE that Honey Grahams decided to show their wholesomeness, heart, grace and savvy by redoing their commercial. I LOVE WHOLESOME HONEY GRAHAMS since I was a kid living in a middle class blue collar family of four — me, mom, dad and my kid brother, the bane of my existence.

  7. Gordon says:

    Some fantastic creative and what I appreciated most was the demonstration of how many positive comments and feedback they received. All too often we only hear the complaints.

    Thanks for sharing Ann!

  8. Diana says:

    millions of people are at this very moment throwing up every graham cracker they have ever eaten. Drop the gay crap

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  11. David Nowlan says:

    This is such an empowering move by an old fashion company. It’s great to see that the world is changing and taking on the “haters.” I love how they responded in a classy yet cool manner. Great job Honey Maid.

  12. There’s no doubt that all of the tips you’ve provided on your submit. They are simply begging and may definitely work. Nevertheless, your blogposts are extremely short for first timers. May just you want lengthen these a bit from up coming period? Thanks for the posting.

  13. Y.R. says:

    Honey Maid sucks. What happened to their thick, sugary, cinnamon coating and dense crunch? It makes me sad :'(

  14. Dawn Smith says:

    My only problem with Nabisco is the very wealthy brand is made in Mexico.

  15. Dawn Smith says:

    Not my place to judge on how someone loves! Gay, bi sexual does not matter to me. But keep your products in America.

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