Can a Graham Cracker Represent Real American Families Today?

In the 1920s, when Honey Maid was born, the typical American family was pillared by a specific family type. A man, a woman; a breadwinner, a homemaker. Today, there is no such typical family. The breadwinner-homemaker structure has been replaced by a new norm of diversity. There hasn’t been a fall of one dominant family type and rise of another but instead a flourishing into all sorts of structures. Nuclear, single-parent, extended, biracial, and same-sex parent families have made different the new normal when it comes to American households. Honey Maid’s new campaign is about acknowledging this shift and reaching out to the parents who create these colorful families.

Listen to the full interview with Gary Osifchin – Episode 15 on the Avid Impact Podcast

In a recent interview with Alan Hart, Gary Osifchin, Portfolio Lead for Biscuits North America at Mondelēz International, says that Honey Maid’s inspiration was cultivated from a desire to be relevant to today’s families. “We looked at the brand’s lifespan over the last 90 years and the key part of the brand history was a sense of wholesomeness,” hence the campaign “This is Wholesome.” “We’ve always been a very simple graham cracker that has been in millions of American homes and as we looked at the brand and how we could bring it forward, going back to that history and honing in on wholesome was a true inspiration for us. It unlocked the award winning work that we’re talking about today.” Yet in terms of history, the brand put a bold foot forward in asserting that today’s American families can be very diverse but wholesome nonetheless. To do this, the brand had to develop a message about diversity that was relevant and targeted, and then conjure a team along with agency partner Droga5 to put these ideas into action.

To truly reinvent brand meaning and establish relevancy, a company must give more than just a product to a consumer. The company has to ask itself “why do they buy me?” In the marketing world, it’s no longer about whether you taste great or perform better, it’s about having a connection. “We wanted to branch out in a way that is meaningful and resonates with consumers… and I think we did a terrific job in representing the breadth of the diversity that exists in America… We’re for all families… [and] that meant putting forth a gay family along with a biracial family, a Hispanic single dad… We weren’t putting forth the persona of what a family historically has looked like— we were putting forth a real American family of today.”

Honey Maid set out with five real families to represent the relevancy in today’s culture. After the content was created, the brand pinpointed a target audience to share their relevant message of diversity with, and that was parents of kids aged 2 -12 who lead an active lifestyle in the multicultural fabric of America today. The brand then had to weave together a team that would bring it all to fruition. “It takes a leader and a strong team around you in preparation to make something like that successful when it comes with risk,” Osifchin says, and Honey Maid certainly took an nontraditional turn in terms of data driven decisions. The brand admits that their campaign wasn’t tested. Instead, Osifchin says, “we focused in on a lot of smart people around the table and saying, ‘what’s the right thing to do.’ “

For other marketers who dream of becoming an iconic American brand, Osifchin says, “If a graham cracker can represent what America looks like today, I think other brands can [too].”

“You have to be prepared,” he adds, “You have to be willing to champion the idea and engage the right partners at the right time, internally, to ensure [that] the integrity of the idea shows up.” As a long-standing company, it’s also important for marketers to retool themselves and, Osifchin advises, to think about segmentation in the CPG industry. “Segmentation in CPG has always been about identifying your core consumer that you’re going to go after and segmentation in the digital world is quite different.” And it’s true- the digital age has given us knowledge that we’ve never had before in terms of consumer behavior, what they purchase, adjacent categories, time of day, moments, where brands fit in, where they don’t fit in, and where they should fit in. “Our business models are all built off of one-to-many— our agency models are built off of one-to-many… [but] the one-to-one opportunity is real and here and we need to figure it out.” However, it’s not about data from a standpoint of measurement or targeting, it’s about rethinking how you can use that data to reach more people in a better way.

Most of all, Osifchin wants us to remember to think of the brand like a person. Who are you picking to be in your cupboard?

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