'Disappointing and tone deaf': Why Kraft shouldn't sugarcoat the truth with Salad Frosting

Spool CEO Catherine Merritt on why #LieLikeAParent rubbed her the wrong way.

Upon seeing the headlines this week about Kraft’s new #LieLikeAParent campaign, in which parents are encouraged to dupe their kids with Salad Frosting in hopes they’ll eat more veggies, my first assumption was: This is a joke.

Sadly, it is not.

Now, before I launch into why this rubbed me the wrong way, and lest any readers get the wrong idea about where my frustrations come from, let me clarify a few things.

1. I worked on Kraft brands for years and I value the brands I worked on, the people I worked with and the integrity (really!) we brought forth to help feed and support consumers.

2. When I did work on Kraft in previous agency roles, no joke, this kind of "lying" or "sneaking" or "duping" idea would always surface at least every few months during agency brainstorms and we never brought it forth because… let’s not be that brand.

3. Do I lie to my kids? Sure. Do I tell my third grader I’m going to call his teacher to find out what his homework is, knowing that of course I’d never follow through? Yes. Do I wear it as a badge of parenting honor? No. Do I need, seek or want permission from a CPG corporation to do this? Absolutely not.

The notion of lying to kids to get them to eat veggies is not good and it’s not new. I think the marketers who worked on this realize kids aren’t going to actually believe that Salad Frosting is real frosting. So then I am left to assume this is a sad and poor attempt from the brand to be relevant to parents by saying "we get it, parents, we all lie, wink wink."

Except here’s the thing: That’s not what consumers, or particularly parents, want from a brand. We don’t need a brand to be in-the-know and our "your little lies are safe with us" buddies. We have real human friends who can fit that role far better.

How about investing the marketing budget from this campaign and actually putting it toward making foods that openly, honestly and transparently are better for kids? I bet parents would really love that. Why not put that budget toward more meaningful and impactful measures to evolve rather than to attempt being relevant and failing miserably at it?

This week at NOSH Live in New York City, brands such as Caulipower, Nestle, General Mills and Pepsi have been sharing their commitment to this space and showing how they meet real consumer demands for better, honest and smarter food. Talking to founders who are bringing integrity, truth and quality to products because that’s what consumers want has further punctuated what a huge miss this is for Kraft and how disappointed I am that they would stoop this low.

Kraft should focus fiercely on the product first and foremost and be as authentic and transparent as possible. If that's done right, then there's no need to fall back on tone-deaf marketing campaigns.  

Catherine Merritt is CEO of Spool.

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