Like many people, I’m principled when it’s convenient. There are a few brands that, due to the stated beliefs of their corporate benefactors, I try to avoid. It’s their right to think and say what they want; it’s mine, as a self-appointed keeper of the socioethnomoral-righteousness flame, to direct my dollars elsewhere. And then I find myself stranded somewhere or other at an unfortunate hour, and I plunk over eight bucks for a Chick-fil-A sandwich in lieu of raiding the vending machines. It happens. I’m not proud of this.
I prefer my brands to stand or fall on the quality of the product/service they provide. Life’s easier that way. By way of example, the product that’s nearest to me at this moment is a pair of Asics running shoes. I like them because they make my oft-blistered toesies feel like they’re in the warm embrace of a pillow hug. Is there a Mr. Asics out there somewhere behind the corporate velvet rope, and is he quietly using 30 percent of all profits to underwrite, say, Dogfighting Without Borders or The VFL (Vaccination-Free Football League)? I’d rather not know. I don’t want anything to intrude on my enjoyment of the product.
That’s why I’m both charmed and slightly perplexed by Honey Maid’s lovely, touching response video to the first volley of its “This Is Wholesome” campaign ads. I’m charmed because it’s impossible to think of a more gracious reaction to Internet ugliness. I’m perplexed because, well, “graham cracker brand makes stand for decency and compassion” feels like something out of the Simpsons playbook.
Some background: A month ago, Honey Maid launched a campaign, “This Is Wholesome,” that celebrates families of all kinds. Apparently its message of love and tolerance struck the wrong chord with commenters who believe one, that unions can only exist between a man and a woman of identical racial heritage and two, that a bombardment of exclamation points is the most effective means of accentuating the verbiage that preceded it.
Outside of a word here or there - “disgusting,” “horrible,” “DO NOT APPROVE” - Honey Maid’s video response doesn’t detail the content of the messages. Instead, it tasks a pair of artists with creating something beautiful out of rolled-up printouts of the angry missives. Using what appears to be an NRA-approved glue gun, the artists assemble a paper sculpture that serves as both a retort to critics of the campaign and a reinforcement of its central theme: a rendering of the word “LOVE” in florid script.
For good measure, the artists use printouts of positive messages received in the wake of the airing of the first ads to expand the scope of the sculpture (Honey Maid claims in the clip that it received 10 times as many positive messages as negative ones). I don’t know the first thing about working with paper - I’m a 21st century journalist, for heck’s sake - but the end product is a museum-worthy work of art.
So yeah, I love the message and the self-assured way in which it is delivered. I love the subtlety of the execution. I love the humanity that underlines the clip - the kindness, the grace, the restraint. What I don’t understand is Honey Maid’s decision to bind its brand to a message of inclusiveness, specifically a type of inclusiveness with which a percentage of the population still has a problem. Honey Maid makes graham crackers. Is there a benefit to be had as the most outwardly tolerant graham cracker on the shelf?
In that sense, the campaign itself represents a bold gambit and the response clip a doubling-down on its approach. So far, it has paid off in the form of video views and media attention, but it’s anybody’s guess how it’ll play out once critics start pushing back. Either way, I admire the bravery. It’s a rare brand that makes a conscious, overt choice to place itself in the crosshairs, as opposed to playing it safe. You know, by celebrating traditional graham cracker product characteristics, like textural integrity.
In no way is that a criticism; any person/brand that stands up for compassion is fine in my book, regardless of motive. I’m just curious to hear the thinking behind it - and, of course, to see the next quarter’s round of Honey Maid sales figures.