National Stepfamily Day has been around for 17 years, but this year it has gotten more attention, thanks to the recent Honey Maid ad push #NotBroken, which features blended families as a familiar part of everyday life. The new ads are part of the "This Is Wholesome" strategy launched in the spring by Mondelez International senior marketing director Gary Osifchin that salutes the changing face of the American family. Osifchin explains the risks and rewards of giving an iconic American brand a bold point of view about who buys the product.
What’s the genesis of your advertising this year that focuses on divorced, interracial and same-sex families?
We are tapping into a cultural insight that is very much about the change in the family dynamic and composition in America today. We relaunched the brand in the summer of 2012 and talked to kids. That was the first time in a decade that we had national advertising campaign support beyond in-store S’mores. It worked beautifully for us but we had to shift the strategy at the end of 2013 in that we wanted to reach moms and dads. We’re now talking to parents and the cultural insight is that the family composition and dynamic is different, but what is the same with our product and with those families is positioning around wholesome connections. The current hashtag (#NotBroken) and campaign that we just launched recognize another dynamic in American families, focused on stepfamilies.
In the first iteration of the campaign, there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on dads. Was that deliberate?
These are all real families and films done with directors who shoot real documentaries. We spent time searching for families and spending time with them so directors could find the most engaging stores that consumers would find interesting. We’re representing parts of the composition of the American family; we’re not representing everything. In the final edits where those stories had the dads being more central to story, it worked and felt right. You don’t see a lot of that: Historically the focus is usually on moms. The current iteration about blended families starts with two moms. It’s an interesting reminder that advertising is storytelling and we’re telling real stories here.
There are few things as traditionally American as graham crackers. Did you have any fear of consumer backlash? Did you do a lot of testing?
We didn’t even test this idea. This is about smart people recognizing from a strategic standpoint what they want to talk about and tying it to your product. Now as we continue with #NotBroken, we’re holding a mirror up to America and celebrating all-American families. We’re on a journey here where we are very much showing America who they are. … It’s reality. Who thought a graham cracker could be talking at this level as a brand? But we can because we are talking very meaningfully to the family of today and that’s resonating.
What kind of feedback have you received?
With the #NotBroken campaign we launched we’re just out of the gate, but in the first 24 hours it’s been overwhelmingly positive. People are sharing it on Twitter and Facebook and watching the video on YouTube. Looking at Facebook comments, we see things like “Your inclusiveness is inspiring.” We have over 12 million views now of all the content that we put out since March. We didn’t even have a Twitter account in March, we barely had a Facebook presence. We launched everything at once and we’ve seen that moms and dads really get this message around wholesome family connections and it’s resonating. … We’re in the mode of real-time marketing and we’re deep in with digital and social. We have a social team listening to consumers, responding to consumers in their social lives every day. In the first three days of the ad launch, we're seeing 98 percent of mentions about it as positive or neutral and 2 percent negative.
What are you specifically hearing from them? It’s interesting because the product is featured in a subtle way in the ads.
Honey Maid is an all-American brand. It’s synonymous with graham crackers. Consumers grew up with their grandmothers giving them graham crackers and a glass of milk, so they already get the product. They now know there’s new news about us adding whole grains and that we’ve taken out high-fructose corn syrup. They say, “Your product is something I remember and I want to enjoy with my kids.” It taps into authenticity which is what resonates with consumers today—from ingredients to recognition as to who they are.