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How Honey Maid Won the Internet by Redefining This Everyday Word

A traditional food company reinvigorates its marketing by breaking with tradition.

Most of us associate graham crackers with elementary school lunches and after-school snacks. This sweet, inoffensive food is, for many people, a reminder of a simpler time. As the leading maker of graham crackers, Honey Maid has a lot riding on its wholesome image and has invested heavily over the years to establish and maintain it.



With this in mind, it’s surprising that a company of Honey Maid’s size was willing to take the risk it did with its recent social media marketing campaign. Even more surprising was the degree to which it paid off. 

Same Old Honey Maid, Brand New Era



It all started with a TV commercial. The thirty-second spot showed a series of happy families, none of which would have made the airwaves even fifteen years earlier. Most prominently was a gay couple cradling and caring for their newborn baby. The voiceover talked about how even though times are changing, displays of real love can only be defined by one word--Wholesome.



Predictably, the response to Honey Maid’s ad was not entirely favorable. Tweets and Facebook posts poured in-;many of which expressed the sentiment that the company was promoting a “disgusting” and “horrible” message. Instead of apologizing, Honey Maid released another spot--this time, designed specifically for social media. 



The social video shows two artists printing out all of the negative comments and turning them into a large paper sculpture. When the camera pans out, we see that it forms the word “Love.” From there, the voiceover tells us that while there were negative comments, the number of positive comments actually dwarfed them by ten to one.



The second Honey Maid spot has already received more than two million social media views.



How Redefinition of the Familiar Creates Awareness



When most people think of the word “wholesome”, they have a preconceived notion of old fashioned expectations and morals. While Honey Maid’s brand is, in fact, synonymous with wholesomeness, they succeeded by rejecting the narrowest definition of the term.

Human beings are wired for novelty. It’s our adaptive mechanism for staying alive. When we are confronted with a radically new take on a comfortable old idea, we have no choice but to take notice and tell others. By reorienting assumptions around one of their most central attributes, Honey Maid accomplished that most desired and elusive of modern marketing goals--they went viral.



Take a page out of Honey Maid’s book. Identify one of the central attributes that define your company. Think about how to radically reframe it, and build your next batch of marketing content around your re-centered self. You’ll be amazed by the attention that comes your way.


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IMAGE: Screenshot from YouTube
Last updated: Apr 7, 2014

MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications

Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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