Kraft’s Latest Campaign, #SendNoods, Put Buzz Before Brand Value

Kraft’s Latest Campaign, #SendNoods, Put Buzz Before Brand Value

On October 6, 2020, Kraft Mac & Cheese launched matching national campaigns in the U.S. and Canada encouraging audiences to “send noods” as part of a giveaway. Participants were able to send a free box of mac and cheese to a friend, ostensibly to encourage community during the pandemic.

The activation launched on National Noodle Day and lasted for six days, during which the company promoted the program on their social channels, through press releases, and with a digital commercial starring actor Vanessa Bayer.

As our team caught wind of the campaign, it became obvious this program was damaging the brand more than it was helping it. Audience reactions on the brand’s social channels were highly negative and even angry, as you can see from just a few below.

Examples of negative reactions to Kraft's #SendNoods campaign

Too often brands or their agencies try to focus on “going viral” instead of using social media to drive real, meaningful business results. Here are five reasons why this specific concept doesn’t work for Kraft Mac & Cheese.

1. Off-Brand

If you take some time to review the content of the Kraft Mac & Cheese social channels, you’ll notice it’s filled with pictures of children enjoying their product. And these images aren’t from brand-produced photo shoots, it’s user-generated content (UGC) that’s fueling their feed. When you’re consistently marketing your brand as family-friendly and child-focused, marketing with a pun on sending nudes is probably not the way to go.

2. Wrong Audience

Related to the point above, who do you think is publishing the UGC the brand is repurposing on their own channels? Parents.

While they love seeing their children highlighted on the Kraft Mac & Cheese page, they don’t love the #SendNoods messaging showing up on a post next to their child. The majority of their followers are parents who actively engage with the brand for their family-friendly content – which this was anything but.

We’re aware that college students are also fans of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Even so, that’s not been the focus of their marketing. Even if it had been, joking about college students sending nudes digitally would have been risky at best.

3. Inappropriate Content

As one angry follower pointed out, a quick click on the #SendNoods hashtag on Instagram quickly brings you to a slew of inappropriate and sexual images. It’s always a best practice to research your campaign hashtags before implementing a campaign, and with the #SendNoods hashtag, it almost seems obvious what type of content preexists across the web.

4. Ignorant and Insensitive of Social Issues

Like most of Kraft’s recent content, this campaign played into the COVID-19 pandemic. The opening line of their press release stated, “In the midst of navigating through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, families and friends are looking for ways to offer love and comfort from a safe distance.” They then proceeded to position “sending noods” as “the best way to show your love.”

COVID-19 is a serious issue that the entire world is facing and not something to be leveraged by a brand for capital gain. If they truly wanted to run a program that brought people together, they could have done this without playing off this concept.

Additionally, child trafficking continues to be a major issue across the world. This campaign was perceived as sexualizing children by some audience members which puts the brand at risk.

We’ve been managing social media programs for billion-dollar brands since 2007. One of our cardinal rules is that no social program is worth damaging the brand.

Finally, as the #MeToo movement continues, encouraging this type of messaging is distasteful and offensive to men and women who have endured these abuses.

5. Unoriginal

Worse yet, the concept isn’t even new. In 2018, Nissin Foods ran a campaign that launched on National Noodle Day for Cup Noodles and Top Ramen brands pushing the same “send noods” message. Even then it was perceived as “being tasteless” when these brands had a more age-appropriate audience to target, yet the agency responsible for this program ignored these insights.

The agency responsible for this will no doubt want to submit it for awards. (Hopefully the brand will stop them.) If the agency does, they’ll brag about all the reach they got and the thousands of engagements. They of course won’t mention the harm they’ve done. Meanwhile, moms who used to pick the blue box will quietly reach over to Annie’s Organics or another brand. Buzz is never worth damaging a brand’s reputation.

It appears someone at the brand agrees, as they’ve deleted the website and the majority of the social content that existed around this campaign. As of this writing, we have yet to see any formal statement from the brand, but a spokesperson for Kraft Heinz recently told BuzzFeed News that the company is aware of the backlash and that, “the content will be removed from our channels” since the campaign has ended.

However, Kraft has also not addressed any of the negative comments regarding the campaign but did engage with positive participants, only angering those they’ve offended even more. At the end of the day, this is what happens when you chase buzz over business strategy.

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