There are many ways to celebrate diversity. It appears eating four different colors of chocolate at the same time is not one of them.
That’s the lesson candy-maker Cadbury learned on social media Friday, after its effort to mark India’s Independence Day with a multicolored slab of chocolate known as the “Unity Bar” went down… not so well.
“This Independence Day, let’s celebrate a country that stands united in its diversity. Presenting the Cadbury Unity Bar, India’s first chocolate with dark, blended, milk and white chocolate all under one wrap,” the company wrote of its new product.
“Congratulations to Cadbury for solving racism,” replied New York Times restaurant critic Tejal Rao – one of several commentators to criticize the brand for seemingly trivializing racial divisions.
Comedian Ziwe Fumudoh ironically likened the move to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, writing: “‘I have a dream that my children will not be judged by the color of their chocolate, but by the content of their creamy filling.’ - Martin Luther King Jr.”
And American TV personality and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi summed up how much of the internet was feeling with a GIF.
“Pay them a steep price for a different colored bar of chocolate and feel good about yourself. Cadbury makes money, you feel virtuous. Good strategy,” wrote Chandra R. Srikanth, a reporter for Indian news network ET Now, before the launch caused a storm of controversy.
The campaign, produced by marketing agency Ogilvy, began around two weeks ago but only attracted attention this week.
Cadbury had previously tweeted that the Unity Bar had been a financial success, telling a customer: “We got stocked out fast.”
It’s not the only media campaign to be criticized for its handling of race relations – with many likening the incident to a previous marketing misstep by Pepsi.
In 2017, the drinks company pulled a controversial commercial featuring media personality Kendall Jenner that used protest imagery to market the soft drink.
The ad, in which Jenner participates in a photo shoot before joining a group of protesters and offering a Pepsi to a police officer, was accused of appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement and using social justice to sell soda.
CNN has contacted Ogilvy and Mondelez, which owns Cadbury, for comment.