One of the secret parenting tricks my spouse and I used to teach our son to like camping was to ensure that we had s’mores — those gooey confections of toasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers — by the campfire every night.
I was delighted, therefore, when the Honey Maid graham cracker brand recently showed itself to be a strong supporter of families with same-sex parents — not only with an inclusive ad campaign, but with a brilliant response to some hate mail they received about it. Their move comes on the heels of some of the world’s top brands also running gay- and lesbian-inclusive advertising in mainstream channels. Interestingly, they all feature not only same-sex couples, but same-sex couples with kids.
Cute kids have always been a good way to sell many products, of course. But showing “homosexuals” near children might at one point have been brand suicide. Now it’s smart business. A million LGBT parents are raising six million kids in the U.S., not to mention the many adults who were raised by LGBT parents, have LGBT kids, or are the relative or friend of one of the above. Showing LGBT families in advertising is a way to tap into a market that is becoming ever more visible. Here's how some brands, including Nabisco's Honey Maid, have been doing so lately.
The Honey Maid name goes back to 1925, according to its website, making it a venerable brand indeed. In March, it released a new ad campaign with the tag line, “This is Wholesome,” which featured families with gay dads, interracial parents, and a single parent, among others. That was great as it was—but the company’s response to the hate mail they then received was even better. Instead of merely ignoring it, they asked two artists to take printed copies of the nasty messages, roll them into tubes, and arrange them to spell out the word “Love.” They made a video of the whole process, added a note that they received 10 times as many messages in support of the ad, and posted it on YouTube.
This is the best corporate response to anti-LGBT sentiment I’ve ever seen. While other companies have stood firm in the face of opposition to their lesbian- and gay-inclusive ads, Honey Maid went the extra step to publicly confirm that not only weren’t they cowed by the opposition, but they were turning it into another inclusive marketing video—and a successful one at that. (As of this writing, the second video had almost three million views, with nearly 35,000 “Likes” compared to just over 1,800 “Dislikes.”)
Perceptive readers may recall, too, that last Pride, Oreo Cookies posted an image of a rainbow-colored stack of Oreos on social media, and it quickly went viral. Oreos are another revered Nabisco brand, with a history going back to 1912.
While I could probably die happy knowing that a prominent maker of delicious bakery products supports lesbian- and gay-headed families, Nabisco isn’t the only company to show us some love lately. During the Olympics, Chevrolet ran a commercial that included two same-sex couples, one with moms, and one with dads. Coca-Cola ran a commercial that included two gay dads and their daughter.
Not only that, but Disney, the company that more than any other defines “family entertainment,” is taking ever greater steps to show its support for us. Not only is Disney World President George Kalogridis openly gay, but the Disney Channel’s children’s series Good Luck Charlie featured a family with two moms in January, in a secondary storyline where the fact of the same-sex parents is treated as no big deal. Disney is also owned by ABC, whose ABC Family channel hosts one of the best shows ever to feature same-sex parents and their kids— “The Fosters.” Posters for the show are prominent at Disneyland and Disney World.
American brands don’t get much more iconic than Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, and Disney. In fact, all are in the top 100 in the 2013 Interbrand ranking of the Best Global Brands: Coca-Cola at number three, Disney at 14, and Chevy at 89. A newer brand, Amazon, was named a “top riser,” coming in at 19 — and ran prominent product placement of its Kindle e-reader during “TheFosters’” first season.
Obviously, our families need more than just inclusive ads. We need books, movies, and other media that give our children, and ourselves, positive images of LGBT families across many axes of diversity, including family structure, race, religion, class, physical ability, and more. We still need legal rights, including parental rights separate from marriage, employment nondiscrimination, and marriage equality. We need the companies that want us to buy their products to support us through equitable employee policies, donating to LGBT advocacy groups, and calling on elected officials to support LGBT equality.
But following the money is not a bad way to gauge sentiment in our country, for better or worse—and if companies feel that we LGBT families are worth marketing to, that's a good sign for our future. Additionally (speaking as the mother of a child just as captivated by commercials as TV shows), seeing images of LGBT families, even in advertising, can help both our own children and others come to see LGBT families as a normal part of American life. I’ll raise a toasted marshmallow to that.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (mombian.com), an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.