How a Rainbow-Oreo Sparked a Boycott and Doubled the Fan Growth

How a Rainbow-Oreo Sparked a Boycott and Doubled the Fan Growth 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.”

Oreo’s intentions
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.

Why Oreo’s ‘Daily Twist’ is one of our all-time favorite social media campaigns

Few cookies have reached the same level of iconicity as Kraft Foods’ Oreo. Its round shape, blackish color and white cream stuffing have undeniably added to its success but as a social media agency we wonder: where would the crowd-pleasing, twistable cookie be today without effective social media marketing?

Let’s zoom in on one of their global digital and social media campaigns that reached millions of hearts (and mouths) and delivered proof that even cookies can provide endless food for thought. We are talking about the wildly successful ‘Daily Twist’ campaign that saw a 110% growth in fan interaction per social-media post only a few months after the campaign was launched. Even though the campaign dates back to 2012, in our view, it earned a spot among the best food branding campaigns on social media ever. Here’s why…

It used milestones and pop culture events to create engagement

2012 was the year that America’s favorite cookie turned 100. Needless to say, it was a cause for celebration.

Every day for 100 days, the Oreo was given a different “twist” – styled to look like Elvis, a panda bear or like the surface of Mars after the Mars Rover had driven over it. On the ‘Daily Twist’ site, users could suggest their “twist”. The campaign was driven on Facebook and also featured on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The Oreo twists were especially created to spark conversation and sharing, referring to milestones or pop culture events that people could relate to and share their thoughts about.

It had timely and shareable content combined with an element of surprise

While some of the cookie designs were planned ahead like the Olympics or Labor Day, others were more agile, tapping into events like the premiere of ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’, the release of the iPhone5 and the birth of a Chinese panda bear. Monitoring trending topics and utilizing current events ensured the content was always relevant and timely. Couple that with the surprise of what each day would bring, and you’ve got a campaign worth tuning into.

They exercized strong brand values

The campaign kicked-off with the Gay Pride rainbow cookie in recognition of the LGBT community, much to the chagrin of conservative crowds.

The Facebook post set off a heated online debate that even led opponents of gay marriage to call for an Oreo boycott. But while supporters and opponents were fighting their online battle, the rainbow cookie doubled Oreo’s fan growth.

By having a strong stance and sticking to it, Oreo established itself as a courageous brand amongst its more liberal fans.

The campaign had an integrated marketing approach, combining the offline and online worlds

The campaign finale took place at Times Square in New York. They set up a pop up agency there, from which they designed the last ‘Daily Twist’, based on suggestions from fans. Earlier that morning, the brand had asked its Twitter followers and Facebook fans to offer ideas, which were going up live on a billboard. Creatives would select the best ones and three of them were then put to an online vote. The winning cookie, celebrating the anniversary of the first high five, was designed on the spot and was displayed on a big billboard.

A seamless flow between the online and offline worlds, and the mix of social and traditional marketing allowed for a greater experience and showed that Oreo mastered the integrated marketing approach.

It put the product in the center – without being self-centered

Oreo’s ability to put their product at the center of the campaign and still make the content relatable and entertaining for a massive range of users is (in our opinion) the most important factor in the success of the ‘Daily Twist’ campaign. The content was heavily branded, yet still relevant, timely and shareable – without ever begging for likes, comments and shares.

Lessons learned

The ‘Daily Twist’ campaign set an example of how important it is to create content that resonates with your audience. There are many ways to find out what moves your fans. For Lurpak®, we identified what kind of recipes the audience was searching for. As a result, we created content that we already knew people wanted to engage with. Read how we did it here.