Marketing

Woolworths takes a chance with “Special Person’s Day” cake for Father’s Day but some shoppers called it “crap” and “disgusting”

Emma Koehn /

Woolworths shoppers have been going head-to-head on social media this morning after some customers took offence to the retailer selling a home-brand Father’s Day mud cake that was iced with the message “Special Person’s Day”.

Images of the cake started flooding the supermarket’s social media channels over the weekend, with some aggressive critics saying the message left them “sickened to the gut”, despite several other shoppers praising the retailer for acknowledging those customers who might not have a traditional father figure to spend the day with.


The “Special Person’s Day” message was just one of several other icing variations on offer from Woolworths stores, and the cake prompted several customers to congratulate the retail giant for acknowledging not all young people are raised by “dads”.

However, that didn’t stop some from calling the idea “crap” and a disgusting “stunt”.

In response to one customer’s concerns, a Woolworths spokesperson said the team is “looking into” the cake display but pointed out that there were a range of decorative cakes with different messages on offer.

“Thanks again for sharing and have a lovely Father’s Day!” the supermarket said to the angry customer.

Shoppers continue to clash this morning over whether what has been dubbed “#cakegate” was a good move from Woolworths, but director of Marketing Angels Michelle Gamble says no matter what choice the supermarket made, somebody was guaranteed to be unhappy.

“It’s just so easy to be outraged now, and I think all brands should know that,” Gamble says.

“But I say if you feel in your heart you are doing the right thing [as a brand], you should press ahead.”

If you believe in something, take action in your business

Retailers have been praised in recent times for taking inclusive action to support their diverse customer bases, with Coles being congratulated last month for trialling a “Quiet Hour” in stores to support those on the autism spectrum or in need of assistance.

Overseas, UK supermarket giant Tesco has received similar praise for its “slow lane” policy, which acknowledges and helps shoppers that need more help or time when organising and scanning their groceries.

In a similar way, Gamble says Woolworths was likely trying to offer shoppers a “kind gesture” with the alternative cake message.

“The fact is that Father’s Day can for some be a painful day,” she says.

The social media storm is a reminder for SMEs operators that even if your business is clear on the reasons for making a certain product choice, it can be difficult to hide from those that get easily outraged, Gamble says.

However, even when faced with a few aggressive critics, brands should remember the broader community can correct this by offering a groundswell of support online.

“If you believe in your heart that something you are doing is good, I think you’ll find these things will be dealt with by the social media community itself,” she says.

Before taking action that might be outside the box, Gamble says business owners should review whether they believe the choice represents something good the brand wants to put forward.

“In this case, they are not breaking any rules, not breaking any codes, and that’s the most important thing,” she says.

“Be prepared to weather the storm a little bit … and I can see from comments, people are also supporting Woolworths.”

Woolworths did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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