Kraft Peanut Butter helping people who probably don’t buy Kraft Peanut Butter

Over the last couple of years, Kraft Heinz has produced a steady flow of brand ideas and activations that seem custom-fit for the post-advertising age (or the mess-age, as we call it here).

Sometimes there’s advertising involved, but usually the intent is earned media. Alex Bogusky famously talked about this approach as writing the press release before the script—it’s about doing things and becoming part of the pop culture discussion, not making a 30-second spot on TV.

We’ve seen—and covered—lots of those press releases, but we received one this week for Kraft Peanut Butter that stood out for us.

It’s a social-good kind of idea to help people who typically avoid peanut butter at all costs. The idea is grounded in the fact that many Canadians with allergies to food like peanuts must pay for their own epinephrine auto-injector medication—or EpiPen as most parents with peanut-allergic kids know it.

According to Kraft, coverage varies from province-to-province, and costs depend on income and private insurance, but the medication costs $120 which is about 25 times the cost of its peanut butter.

To demonstrate that it’s “sticking together” with the food allergy community, Kraft said it will pay out-of-pocket costs of the medication for anyone with less than 100% coverage. People can visit now and upload their receipts to be reimbursed starting Dec. 10.  

“As the market leader in the peanut butter category, we are deeply connected to the food allergy cause and saw a unique opportunity to spark a national conversation,” said Daniel Gotlib, associate director, brand building and innovation, Kraft Heinz Company in a release. “Through our Protection for Peanuts fund, we’re proud to offer support to those affected by food allergies and hope this contributes to long-term change, because life-saving medication really shouldn’t cost more than a jar of peanut butter.”

Kraft launched the promotion on social media, print and OOH billboards, and partnered with rising NHL star Alexis Lafrenière, who is sharing personal stories about living with a peanut allergy and the importance of epipens. Rethink led creative and production, Carat is handling media, The Kitchen handled social, and Middle Child is managing public relations and talent partnerships.

This one caught our attention because it felt at first like a nice brand gesture for a community (peanut averse) that is almost certainly less likely to buy its product.

Put another way, Kraft is saying “We know our product is dangerous to some people. We also know there is medicine for those people. We want to make it easier for people to get that medicine.”

It’s targeting a category of consumer who is, at best, indifferent to Kraft’s Peanut Butter, and at worst, think of the product as literal poison—especially parents anxious about little ones getting anywhere near it.

There’s been lots of debate—and plenty of harsh criticism—about marketing departments wanting to do good for the world and straying too far from their actual purpose of persuading consumers to buy their product. And maybe this is more charitable donation than cause marketing (although the ad campaign would suggest otherwise).

Will it help Kraft sell more peanut butter? That’s a wait-and-see. But it seems likely that for the many consumers who worry about peanut allergies, there could be a halo effect for Kraft and its many other non-peanut-based brands and products. And plenty of other people will see the billboards and the hashtag and have a new positive connection to Kraft’s Peanut Butter.

The skeptics may not buy it, but we think it’s good for people to be saying nice things and thinking good thoughts about your brand in ways that traditional advertising can’t buy.

David Brown