Honey Maid Gives Us All a Lesson on How to Properly Handle Controversy

We’ve all seen controversial ads, some more blatant than others. Most of them don’t make it on air and find their way to the banned ad section of YouTube. One of the more recent controversies is advertisers’ use of gay and/or interracial couples in their commercials, where they are met with unscrupulous criticism. What I love about these controversial ads, though, is the way the companies bounce back from the wrath of the “haters.” First there was JC Penney with their use of a lesbian couple in their Mother’s Day catalogue. The anti-gay groups protested, so what was JCP’s response? A gay couple for Father’s Day. Then there was Cheerios with their adorable biracial little girl. After the criticism erupted, they not only made another similar ad, they turned it into a SUPERBOWL ad. And now there’s Honey Maid, taking a similar approach with their all-inclusive commercial.

In most business decisions, this would seem like a very risky idea. Anyone who works in customer service has heard the “customer is always right” mantra, and it’s similar in advertising. One awful ad can tarnish a brand’s precious reputation, and it could take years to build up another loyal fan base. So making a point of publicly calling out those who disagree with a commercial could have made Honey Maid look like a bully of a company. But in this case it looks like they’re gaining nothing but praise for their original ad and the response video.

I think this works for a couple of reasons. First, there were many more supporters than critics of the original ad, which Honey Maid aptly pointed out in their response. We tend to only hear the negative side of a story about how many people hate a certain commercial, but there usually are even more who love it. Honey Maid did a good job of showing us the positive aspect of this story. Second, the responses they called out were from people who were probably lost customers anyway. There was no way to win them back at that point, so Honey Maid decided to cut their losses and focus on the people who already supported their idea.

This video also put Honey Maid back on the map. Before this ad how many people could name a handful of Honey Maid products? (I actually have a box of Honey Maid graham crackers in my kitchen, but never put a name to the brand until I saw this video). Now that they’re getting so much exposure (thanks to the haters), I would bet that more people will remember the name when they go shopping for Teddy Grahams. And that’s definitely an advertising win.


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