The crack marketing team over at Kraft Macaroni & Cheese made the brilliant decision to celebrate National Noodle Day on October 6 by creating a little promotion with the tagline “send noods” that was undoubtedly entertaining to at least three dozen half-drunken frat boys across the Midwest. I knew it was a bad idea that would require a corporate apology the second I saw it.
Niche brands targeted primarily at a young adult male market segment can often execute campaigns like this that capture attention and drive sales (e.g., Birddogs, Axe). But sophomoric, sex-related humor has no place promoting a brand that is targeted at a massive, diverse set of consumers and that many associate with childhood.
At minimum, two factors–the Me Too movement’s discussions around the tendency of some men to send unsolicited sexual images to women and parental worries about teenage boys’ proclivity for pressuring female classmates into sexting or to send explicit pictures of themselves (which are often shown to other classmates)–should have made someone at Kraft pull the plug early on this very bad idea. I’m amazed a responsible adult couldn’t be located anywhere in the Kraft Heinz marketing department on October 5 since I’m guessing there are some top notch people working there.
This dustup likely won’t have significant long-term consequences for KM&C. It’s an iconic brand that most people buy out of habit at the grocer. It doesn’t mean the company hasn’t at least temporarily alienated some of its customers though. All this, of course, could have been avoided by the simple exercise of considering what the brand’s core values are and determining whether or not a promotion that equates a bowl of macaroni with a dick pic is consistent with those values (it’s not).
There’s a part of me that wonders if this promotion got approved because of some kind of half-baked one-upmanship arms race between CPG marketing departments to prove they can be as unconventional and willing to take risks as their peers. Perhaps someone at Kraft read this Adweek report about Folgers Coffee from last month and decided “we’ll show them.” Good luck in your job search, Marketing Department guy.