Health conscious consumers aren’t going anywhere, and there are more of them every day. So even brands that have historically been considered unhealthy are looking for ways to reach this fast-growing population in their marketing. Some of these brands have attempted transparency (like others marketing healthy food), knowing it’s something that health-conscious consumers value.

McDonald’s first attempt was missing half of the equation. McDonald’s, a historically unhealthy brand, decided to capitalize on the huge movement toward transparency. They thought they could change their image by running the campaign, “Our Food, Your Questions”, to combat their negative, unhealthy perceptions. The campaign promised straight-forward answers to consumer questions on how their food was made and exactly what was in it. But instead of becoming a place for honest talk, #Ourfoodyourquestions revealed disturbing ingredients and became a forum for people to talk about just how bad McDonald’s food is. There was no talk of how noble McDonald’s was for being honest, but instead chatter about all the bad stuff that’s in their fries like MSG, GMOs, and even TBHQ, a highly dangerous additive. So McDonald’s unsuspectingly wound up running a campaign that pointed out just how incredibly unhealthy their products are. So here’s the lesson: Being transparent isn’t enough! The campaign might have been successful at changing perceptions if McDonald’s had first made some healthy, meaningful changes to their food. Turns out, the only thing this campaign did was confirm that they don’t have a whole lot to be proud of when it comes to their ingredients.  Marketing healthy food when the food isn’t healthy is a tall order.

On the flip side, Domino’s Pizza, another brand that’s not exactly the picture of health, ran a very successful transparency campaign. Their “Pizza Turnaround” was a mini-documentary that exposed consumers’ harshest criticisms about Domino’s Pizza, including criticisms like the crust tasted like “cardboard.” Instead of denying, they owned up to it in a big way and rebuilt their pizza from the crust up with healthier, fresher ingredients. The campaign focused on Dominos’ small-time roots and their passionate chefs, which helped them come across less mass produced and way more authentic. This campaign was a perfect combination of transparency and a commitment to important healthy change.

So if you’re suffering from unhealthy perceptions or are a brand that’s considered healthy but you’re dealing with consumer backlash, there are some important steps to take to win over healthy-food consumers, even for the occasional indulgence.  Learn from some of the best marketing healthy food.

1) Own up to your flaws- this could be ingredients, ethical choices, or taste. Find out what needs to change by simply listening to your consumers on social media.
2) Invest in resources to affect change- admitting your flaw is never enough to win over a consumer. They want to see you make an effort to correct the problem and see that you actually cared enough to listen.
3) Reap the benefits- once you have completed the turnaround, every purchase will become an act of trust. Your following will grow because honest campaigns that are backed by action are almost always followed by positive results.

How typically “unhealthy” brands can combine meaningful change and transparency to change perceptions