By Jason Menard
The rationale behind publishing a multi-coloured Oreo in support of gay pride is starkly black and white – it’s the right thing to do, despite the fact that there is little to no chance of positive benefit to the company’s bottom line.
An image of a rainbow-coloured Oreo appeared on the brand’s Facebook fan page on Monday. Since then, the page has been inundated with over 250,000 likes and over 45,000 comments. It’s a simple image with a simple message: “Proudly support love!” – and while the decision to publish it may be simple at its root, from a business point of view it’s much less black and white.
There are those who will say Kraft Food’s decision to support gay pride events is a stroke of marketing genius. After all, the reaction to the image has spread like wildfire throughout both traditional media and social networking. The image itself is almost secondary to the comments it has sparked – and, of course, the focus is on the extremist point of view.
When it comes to discussing homosexuality you’re going to get four points of view: extreme on both sides and moderate on both sides. And, inevitably, you’re going to see the comments devolve into a shouting match where each side will hurl insults at the other (and that moderate middle will plea for cooler heads, but those comments will be ignored.) In the end, nothing is served other than causing those extremists to become more firmly entrenched in their bias: the right-wing Christians will feel that the comments justify their condemnation of the gay lifestyle; and those pro-Gay/anti-organized religion will feel justified in hurling their anti-religious epithets.
In the end, nothing gets solved, no one grows, and a learning opportunity – along with the intended message — is lost.
But from a strictly business perspective, this isn’t marketing genius. In fact, it’s a no-win proposition for the brand. The funny thing about taking a stand is that those who are so quick to pat you on the back will do so while continuing to walk away. Chances are, Oreo’s not going to gain a bunch of new customers for publishing this image. There are those who say they will be life-long customers, but that’s likely just in-the-moment rhetoric.
You’re either a cookie fan or not. As a person who holds pro-gay beliefs, I appreciate what Oreo did. But I’m not going to change my buying habits to purchase more Oreos. There may be those who pick up a box of Oreos the next time they’re out based on this action, but it’s likely not going to change many long-term buying habits.
However, there are a number of people who feel the opposite way. There are those who are so offended by this image and the company’s support of what they believe is a deviant lifestyle. And they will be motivated to stop buying – not just Oreos, but all forms of Kraft items.
Sadly, intolerance is a powerful emotion — and it can be a powerful motivator. That hatred can spread amongst like-minded individuals. So, from a strictly business perspective, Kraft Foods really had no reason to create this image, which is why the decision to post the rainbow Oreo was such an admirable action.
Many companies shy away from anything that might even mildly offend their customer base. There are position statements and press releases a-plenty filled with empty words, double-speak, and hollow terminology designed solely to appease the masses without taking a stand. Many companies are content to just stay on the sidelines, away from the action, and remain non-committal on the issues.
Fortunately, there are other companies – like Kraft Foods – that choose a different path. Instead of staying on the sidelines, it decided to march hand in hand with those celebrating Pride. Instead of saying nothing – and, honestly, no one would have even thought of wondering whether Oreos were a gay-friendly cookie – the company spoke up with a message that it felt was important to share.
Maybe they lose a few supporters; maybe they lose some long-term sales; and maybe some long-time Oreo fans have rethought their cookie choice. And maybe all of that doesn’t matter, because this company stood up for what it believes.
Because the only bottom line that matters here is what’s right – and for Kraft Foods, the rationale behind publishing a rainbow Oreo was black and white.