Food case study: Honey Maid turns social media hate into love with diverse family campaign

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Honey Maid courted controversy in the US with a campaign celebrating the diversity of modern families. This food case study looks at how the Mondelez-owned cracker brand turned a social media backlash into something much more positive… getting over 11 million YouTube views in the process.

Key takeaways:

• All-American food brand undergoes brand repositioning camapign to reflect changing society and customer values

• Brand awareness video series linked to strong and simple social media call-to-action

• Used social media tool 'Thunderclap' to amplify message

• The brand anticipated social media backlash based on previous (and similar) competitor campaigns... and used it to their advantage with a follow up video

• HoneyMaid got 11 million YouTube views across both videos and vast amounts of earned media space from this relatively low cost campaign

What was the challenge?

Honeymaid is an all-American brand, synonymous with graham crackers and nostalgia. But US society was changing and the brand wanted to reflect this with a new campaign that put digital at its heart. Back in March 2014, the brand launched a new cross platform campaign with agency Droga5, featuring three real life couples and their children, including same-sex couples and single parents.

What’s the user’s experience?

Droga5 created a 30 second video that was seeded on YouTube and ran across national TV. A voiceover stated: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid – everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family.”

The video ad ended on the tagline ‘this is wholesome’ and Honey Maid is encouraging people to share it using the #thisiswholesome hashtag using branding shown below:


It also created a Thunderclap, a social tool that sends out a Facebook post or Tweet from all supporters signed up in one 'blast' in a bid to amplify the message.

View the first video ad here:

How does this boost the businesses' digital marketing?

After the initial campaign, Honey Maid surpassed its supporter goal (250) and reached over 175,000 people across social media following the ‘blast’. The video has been viewed over 7 million times with spin offs also getting higher viewer numbers on YouTube.

Phase two: Turning negative comments into a positive message

However, Honey Maid knew its ad would provoke controversy. A similar ad from Cherios the month before (featuring an interacial family) has sparked a backlash on social media.

The ‘Wholesome’ ad incited similar comments on the brand’s Facebook page. In response, Honey Maid created a follow-up spot released on social media.

The ad began: “On March 10th, 2014, Honey Maid launched ‘This is wholesome,’ a commercial that celebrates all families,” the online short proclaims. “Some people didn’t agree with our message.”

Viewers see close-ups of tweets and e-mails with remarks such as “Horrible, NOT ‘WHOLESOME,’” “DO NOT APPROVE!,” and “Disgusting!!”

In turn, the brand hired artists Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover, who collaborate under the name INDO, taking a printout of each hateful comment and rolling it into a tube, then grouping the tubes at one end of a vast, industrial-looking space to create an assemblage that spells out “Love.”

As the ad comes to a close, the final message reads: “But the best part was all the positive messages we received. Over ten times as many.” Then we see e-mails with epithets such as “family is family” and “love the Honey Maid ad” and “this story of a beautiful family” and “most beautiful thing.”

The entire room fills up with tubes made from these messages. Finally, we are told, “Proving that only one thing really matters when it comes to family … ,” and then we see the word “love” embraced by a roomful of paper tubes.

Why it worked

The pacing of the spot is impeccable: the first half turns hatred into love, and the second half provides evidence of love itself. In its first day online, it garnered more than 1.5 million views, going on to get 4 million over the coming months- as a food case study it sets a great example of social media amplification and how a campaign can expand into a video series for maximum impact and reach.

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