Oreo goes out on a limb with rainbow cookie


Last night Oreo posted this picture on their Facebook feed.We’re unclear at this early stage whether Oreo created a crisis or a viral sales tool for itself with its gay-friendly rainbow cookie. Given the calls for boycotting the famous black and white treat, however, it would seem more crisis.

But Oreo social media managers could also be crazy  brilliant. Not all crises are bad.

At right is what they posted on Oreo’s Facebook page Monday, flagged by my eagle-eyed colleague Allie Friedman. When you think of the Oreo cookie, which recently celebrated its 10oth anniversary, color doesn’t jump to mind.

But that’s the point of the rainbow creme. [They obviously thought this through because in the fine print below the word “PRIDE” to the left of the top view of the cookie is the disclaimer that Oreos are not actually available in these colors.]

Thus this posting is fanciful, advocative and more than a little risky. And it’s not promoting the product or the brand, but instead placing Oreo into a cultural debate that it otherwise would have avoided.

Nabisco, a division of Kraft Foods, is, like so many consumer products companies these days, deeply in to social media. But this move is nonetheless puzzling. Especially since Oreo’s FB page immediately lit up with criticism of the brand’s stance, some of it bigoted and mean.

Oreo created the imaginary cookie to honor LGBT month this June, the month for many gay-pride parades around the country. According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor:

So far, over 167,000 Facebook users have “liked” the photoshopped image of the self-proclaimed “world’s favorite cookie.” It has racked up 48,853 shares and over 22,000 comments – not all of them positive, and quite a few vitriolic.

Consumer companies rarely risk alienating their clientele by taking a gratuitous or un-researched stance. Clearly, Oreo brand managers concluded this was a net-positive move, and likely planned it a long time in advance. But is it possible they acted without thinking or researching deeply enough? In some ways, this seems like a self-induced crisis.

Gay brand loyalty is well-known. But even with the gay and lesbian community presumably enamored of rainbow-friendly Oreos, will this stance move sales? Were not enough LGBT folks dipping Oreos in milk? Will they now? How did Oreo know? Will the backlash in fact hurt sales? Time will tell.

From a social activism viewpoint, this is a bold move and Oreo/Nabisco/Kraft deserve praise and credit for taking it, and it’s especially smart as a FB-only ad, with its younger-leaning audience. But from a sales standpoint, will this crisis hurt?

A spokesperson offered this: “We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way. As a company, Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness.  We feel the OREO ad is a fun reflection of our values.”

I’m not sure this is the type of “fun” brand managers seek. In the end, will it all be worth it?

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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3 Responses to Oreo goes out on a limb with rainbow cookie

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