When Oreo chose to post a picture of a rainbow-striped Oreo biscuit with the text “Proudly support love!” on their Facebook page as the American Gay Pride march took place the 25th of June, it resulted in a fierce debate among the 27 millions fans on the page.
The page was filled with negative comments, and many fans left the page and threatened to boycott the brand because of Oreo’s support for the gay community.
But this controversial post was actually a huge success for Oreo: The company doubled its fan growth, and the number of likes, comments and shares increased drastically.
Reactions from the community
All Facebook Stats has analysed the Oreo page’s statistics. The Gay Pride post resulted in a peak in the daily fan growth with nearly 50,000 new fans per day as opposed to 25,000 new fans per day before the post:
The post quickly went viral: more than 50,000 comments and over 300,000 likes. The most remarkable gain is the 80,000 shares, which constitutes an incredible increase by 4929% as the chart below shows:
With such a controversial message, the comments were inevitably very fiercely divided. While some expressed gratitude and respect for Oreo, such as this fan: “Very glad to support a company like Oreo that joins the campaign for civil rights!”, many others expressed homophobic rage, such as in this comment: “Disliked Oreo page because of this one post. Think about how much business u just killed Oreo. I can’t support a business that supports gays.” Another user wrote: “This is absolutely disgusting. Your attempt to “normalize” the behavior of homosexuals has cost you a costumer.”
A Kraft spokesperson explained the idea behind the post to Huffington Post UK:
“In celebration of the 100th birthday of Oreo cookies, the brand is creating a series of daily ads reflecting current events in a fun way using images of Oreo cookies and milk. (…) In recognition of Pride Month, Oreo created an ad depicting the Rainbow flag with different colors of Oreo crème. We are excited to illustrate what is making history today in a fun and playful way. You can follow Oreo on Facebook to see the daily ads. 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.”
Oreo certainly had good intentions with this Facebook post, but the company must also have given some thought to what impact the action of posting the controversial message would have on their brand image. I would be surprised if Oreo’s posting of the image was a mere naïve attempt to brand themselves as a company celebrating diversity. One can only imagine that the brand considered it thoroughly knowing quite well that they would risk losing a large number of fans in a country where a large number of the population is religious republicans and/or against homosexuality. So, Oreo had to realise that this post would divide the camps, but they probably also knew that the final outcome would be positive. Unfortunately, the All Facebook Stats don’t show how many people actually left the page. However, the numbers of new likes, comments and shares speak for themselves – the post did not harm Oreo’s overall image, it did just the opposite.
Even though the post evidently alienated a large number of fans, I doubt that this action actually hurt their sales. Many people will in the future think of Oreo as a courageous brand with strong values.
Did Oreo really realise the impact?
Oreo pinned the post on top of their page for a while, which shows that this is a message of great importance to the brand. However, it seems that the brand succumbed to pressure from the fans threatening to boycott and leaving the page, as the post is no longer to be found on the page. The fact that Oreo removed the post makes this action of sharing a strong message seem less brave and rather as if they in fact hadn’t anticipated to which extent the post would be controversial. Oreo’s withdrawal of the post makes the company seem less bold, as it shows that they couldn’t handle the criticism. And by removing the post, they seem to admit to have made a clumsy mistake.
Brands can build a strong brand image by communiting their values, and as this example proves, it can be worthwhile to take some risks. However, when brands share content to Facebook, it has to be a part of a strategy – especially posts of this nature. A post shouldn’t be removed once it’s posted – every single post must be well considered before going public. Especially when the post has gone viral with 80,000 shares. Removing a post sends a message of a brand not having planned their content properly and having considered the possible consequences.