Are Brands Being Genuine in Their Ethical Campaigns?

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Are Brands Being Genuine in Their Ethical Campaigns?

Honey Maid, the venerable brand of graham crackers whose very name evokes sepia- toned memories.

For some time now those of us in the marketing-advertising-PR industry have known that business as usual doesn’t cut it anymore in building or burnishing brand awareness. Shopping is no longer solely about the best bargain, brand loyalty or a traditional value proposition. The purchasing experience goes beyond offering a different product for every market segment. (That’s so 20th century GM.) Driven by the 66-million strong Millennial generation, consumers now want to see themselves represented in the brand. A powerful brand reinforces the shopper’s own sense of self as well as accurately telegraphs their values to others. And, it needs to speak the truth.

To traditional Madison Avenue style advertising, that might sound like so much kumbaya. But caveat vendit! Ignoring the desires – no, the feelings – of the contemporary consumer is no longer an option, whether you manufacture graham crackers or smart phones. In today’s social media -rich environment, where consumer feedback is instantaneous and activist groups and audience-hungry bloggers are poised to strike, the challenge for brands is to make their ethics known in a way that doesn’t just seem self-serving or “me, too,” but rather, genuinely authentic.

How did Honey Maid manage to strike the right balance between marketing and ethics? It launched an advertising campaign built around diversity. In its TV commercials, there were all kinds of families — a rockers, a single dad, an interracial couple, a military family and one with two dads and their son. The tagline for the campaign made a point of underscoring exactly where Honey Maid was going with this: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family. This is wholesome.”

After watching the most popular, prime-time family TV show in America, “Modern Family,” all of that might seem pretty benign. To our collective credit, depicting an interracial family in a TV commercial or TV show hardly elicits a blink. However, the two-dad family was unheard of in national brand advertising because… well, the best answer was because it just wasn’t done.

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