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How one brand turned online hate to its advantage

Earlier this month, graham cracker brand Honey Maid released an ad celebrating "every wholesome family" including shots of an interracial couple holding hands on a walk with their kids, and a gay couple swooning over their adorable new baby.

And, like clockwork, the company saw backlash. Online commenters called the ad “disgusting” and “not wholesome,” and threatened to boycott it.

Honey Maid has now turned those negative comments into a PR opportunity. In a heartwarming new video, two artists print out the negative comments, roll them up, and glue them together to form a pretty sculpture of the word “love.”

The brand also took it a step further – printing out a proportional number of positive comments to add to the sculpture, and to show visually how many more people approved of its inclusive message as opposed to objecting to the ad.

It’s a simple, well-executed response to online hate; and just one example of how large corporations are recognizing that there is marketing strength in inclusive family messages – and repercussions to rejecting them.

Honey Maid is owned by Mondelez International, which also makes Oreo cookies, Triscuits and Cadbury chocolates among other packaged food brands.

And it’s not alone. Here in Canada, BCE Inc. aired an ad during the Winter Olympics that, among other scenes, featured a gay couple kissing.

General Mills-owned Cheerios last year released an ad featuring a biracial family, which also saw some negative comments online. Cheerios responded not just by defending the ad, but by bringing back the same family for a sequel in which we discover that the family is expecting another child. What’s more, Cheerios bet the farm on its message by choosing to air the follow-up ad using television’s most expensive real estate: the Super Bowl.

These commercials get made not simply because companies believe it is the right thing to do. When major advertisers spend a good amount of money on using these messages to represent their brands, they are betting that the majority of consumers will respond to them.

In short, messages of inclusion are now good business practice.

This week, Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, resigned after a controversy over his support for Proposition 8, the 2008 motion to ban gay marriage in California.

Employees at the company publicly objected to the choice of their new leader. Online dating service OKCupid asked its users to consider not using Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser to access the site.

“Mozilla supports equality for all,” the company’s executive chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, wrote in a blog post.

As public opinion about gay marriage has shifted over the years, companies have begun to realize the power of reflecting those changing sentiments. With this latest sweet message, yet another brand is making a bet that they’ll catch more flies with honey.

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