Often around special days and weeks honouring marginalized groups, The Message receives press releases from brands eager to show their support.
But for Transgender Awareness Week this week, The Message has seen only one—although perhaps more will come ahead of the Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance. The release was from Kraft Peanut Butter, which has taken the unusual step of publishing a children’s book about pronouns.
His, Hers, Them & Theirs: Learning Pronouns with the Bears, features the peanut butter’s famous brand mascots Crunchy and Smoothy, and is intended to help parents have conversations with kids about pronoun use and why it is important.
Written by Transgender author Nick North and LGBTQ2S+ illustrator Paul Dotey, the book will go on sale at KraftPeanutButter.ca starting Nov. 20, with all proceeds going to support Transgender and LGBTQ2S+ communities. Kraft is also donating $15,000 to Rainbow Railroad.
“This year for Transgender Awareness Week, we wanted to help normalize conversations around pronouns and create a deeper sense of community,” said Jacqueline Chao, brand manager, brand building and innovation, Kraft Heinz Canada in an email to The Message. “Diversity and inclusion are core values for Kraft Heinz Canada. For us, it’s essential that we’re contributing to a more inclusive, accepting space and helping to drive progress through our actions.”
Kraft is relying on PR, social media and influencer outreach to raise awareness of the book. “We’ve also teamed up with drag stars Fay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé to do a live reading of the book on Instagram this coming Transgender Day of Remembrance,” said Chao.
Transgender Awareness Week is about bringing visibility to the community through education, shared stories and advocacy. As a brand that helps people “stick together,” Kraft said it wants to continue those conversations about supporting the Transgender community year-round.
“For people who’ve never had to think much about their pronouns, they may not know why this is important and why continued advocacy for the Transgender and LGBTQ2SI+ communities are so needed,” said North in a release. “As an author and member of the Trans community, I’m thrilled to partner with Kraft Peanut Butter on this children’s book to do just that. Providing the tools to educate and inspire the next generation is crucial for building an inclusive society for someone like me.”
Working for a more inclusive society and helping a group hurt by discrimination and increased rates of poor mental health and suicide are self-evidently noble objectives. But it’s also the kind of brand purpose initiative relating to a social issue that can irritate and even infuriate some consumers and media pundits.
People who—along with some marketing experts sceptical about brand purpose—feel that brands should concentrate on selling their products, not changing the world. Asked what Kraft would say to those who might be upset by the book, Chao reiterated the brand’s commitment to connection, acceptance, and inclusion.
“It’s more crucial than ever that we’re driving these important values in everything we do and we are hopeful that our role in bringing these conversations forward will contribute to a more accepting, inclusive and safe place for everyone.”