“We’ve gotten really good as a company at launching new products and driving occasions,” declared Hershey’s Brand Manager Alyssa Smith on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022, "But this was different. It wasn’t just about selling more candy. We wanted to drive real social change—celebrating the inspiring women in all of our lives.”
Inspired by a Hershey’s Brazil campaign celebrating female artists in 2020, expanding to India the following year, Hershey’s US and Canadian divisions began the #HerSHE campaigns. The US candy bars featured 200+ empowering adjectives created alongside their charity partner Girls on the Run. “Personally, I’m giddy at the idea of handing out SHE bars,” said Hershey’s new Brand Manager Katie DeCapria in 2022, “The simple gesture of giving someone a SHE bar can spark a meaningful, heartwarming connection.”
This is a great example of the first of Breakfast Culture’s “3 Bees” of Woke Marketing: Hershey’s campaign here is authentic. In 2021, Forbes magazine ranked Hershey’s number one on their World's Top Female-Friendly Companies list and it’s only one of a few Fortune 500 companies led by women. As DeCapria explained, “According to research by our Insights team, 78 percent of consumers say they wish more brands and companies would stand up for women.”
“Like the words, HER and SHE, the accomplishments of women have gone unnoticed for far too long,” says Brittany Chopra, Senior Marketing Manager at Hershey Canada. “This is why Hershey is starting a global movement to make the accomplishments of more women visible.” While the US campaign focused on words, the Canadian campaign focused on image, employing Toronto artist Gosia Komorski to design chocolate bar wrappers with beautiful illustrations of Canadian thought leaders (pictured above). This year’s featured women (pictured below) were Indigenous rights and water activist Autumn Peltier, gender and education-equality activist Rita Audi, 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate Fae Johnstone, climate-tech researcher Naila Moloo, and Girl Up Québec founder Kélicia Massala.
“Honoured to be featured in this campaign by @Hersheys Canada for #InternationalWomensDay alongside 4 brilliant sisters and change-makers,” Johnstone happily tweeted upon the announcement. But in a sobering essay weeks later, on Trans Day of Visibility, Johnston revealed, “Within an hour of the campaign going live on March 1st, I was targeted with a tsunami of hate, not for anything I said, but for my inclusion as a trans woman in a campaign celebrating International Women’s Day.” As the previous year’s campaign had featured trans activist Yasmeen Persad without controversy, it’s a shock to see how organized transphobia has increased in the past year.
Right-wing blogger Matt Walsh explained the strategy on Twitter: “Here's what we should do: Pick a victim, gang up on it, and make an example of it. We can't boycott every woke company or even most of them. But we can pick one, it hardly matters which, and target it with a ruthless boycott campaign. Claim one scalp then move onto the next.”
Fortunately, Hershey’s Canada followed our second bee of Woke Marketing: be prepared. As soon as transphobic news stories began appearing, the company released a statement to media and on their Instagram feed on March 2nd:
“We value togetherness and recognize the strength created by diversity. Over the past three years, our Women’s History Month programming has been an inclusive celebration of women and their impact. We appreciate the countless people and meaningful partnerships behind these efforts.”
While it’s too soon to say what effect a proposed boycott will have on Hershey’s sales and profits, their stock price rose 9.04% during the month of March and an impressive 17.84% over the last six months. While Walsh and his ilk love to yell “go woke, go broke” on social media, there’s zero evidence of that happening here (no scalps!) and Hershey’s understands our third bee: be present.
“I will always stand up for women and girls, cis and trans,” Johnstone tweeted and she’s backed up by Chopra, who wrote: “Last year's initiative exemplified Hershey Canada's larger values and commitment to support and advance gender equity. We’re so excited to extend the message even further in 2023!” It’s a commitment that’s sweet like chocolate.
Breakfast Culture's Woke Marketing approach improves workplace cultures and drives new sources of revenue. Schedule a talk with me today to learn more. Schedule a 30-minute meeting with me on Calendly: https://calendly.com/jefferson7/30min
Let's Break Some Eggs! – Jefferson Darrell, Founder and CEO, Breakfast Culture™ Inc.