The Kraft Foods-owned Oreo uploaded a Facebook image of a cookie filled with six rainbow-coloured layers of frosting on its fan page on June 25 with the tagline ‘June 25: Pride’ and an adjoining comment ‘Proudly support love!’ The post generated over 150,000 ‘like’s and more than 20,000 comments by the afternoon of its upload.
Speaking to BakeryandSnacks.com, Dr Richard George, chair and professor of Food Marketing at the Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, described the move as a “good piece of targeted marketing, particularly considering the use of Facebook to communicate this message.”
Matthew Incles, market intelligence manager at Leatherhead Food Research, agreed that the medium of choice to voice its social message in support of Gay Pride was very apt.
“As a medium it’s incredible powerful and the right one to use in this example,” Incles said.
“A policy statement like this made on a company website would sound quite clumsy, but Facebook lends itself nicely to this,” he added.
Facebook is an accessible medium, he said, where companies can establish a dialogue with their consumers. In this case, consumers were able to respond to its message, he added.
George agreed that the message via Facebook held more power: “Facebook and other social media are like the digital version of the backyard fence or front porch in which customers share ideas and opinions.”
“Consumers place real weight on the opinions of peers and other consumers over those promulgated by marketers,” he added.
Policy and food?
This move comes only weeks after food giant General Mills outwardly opposed the same-sex marriage ban proposals in Minnesota at a business function and in a web letter.
George said: “These particular stances gives them [food companies] an opportunity to connect with a particular target market that feels neglected, like the rainbow market.”
Incles agreed that such a move would have been to “broaden appeal to a certain demographic”.
However, he detailed that a marketing move like this holds risks as it may appeal to some consumers but put off others.
“Food companies need to be very well-informed on an issue before making a stance on it publicly,” he said.
George agreed that Kraft ran “the risk of a backlash or boycott and negative publicity from core customers who don’t support such positions.”
However, there would have been “the anticipation of more positive than negative feedback,” he added.
Kraft's post received varied responses but a strong consensus positively supported the firm’s stance, although there was plenty of negative responses, including threats to boycott the brand.
New trend on the block?
Incles said that it is unlikely social messages and stances such as this will become common among the food industry.
“I don’t see pressure on food companies to do this. Logic tells me this will be few and far between,” he said.
“I can’t really envisage a future where all companies will be outwardly expressing views on social and political issues that are not directly related to business.”
“More than likely, we’ll see companies getting involved in issues closer to their field and company,” he said, such as supply chain issues and the environment.