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.
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.