Target is consistent when it comes to branding itself as inclusive and supportive of small businesses. In February, for instance, Target celebrated Black History Month as it does every year, by highlighting a selection of black-owned brands. One of those brands was the Honey Pot Company, which makes plant-based menstrual and intimate products and is owned by Bea Dixon. The Honey Pot commercial had been running all February without incident.
But then all hell broke loose on March 1, when fans of Honey Pot noticed that the brand’s usual five-star rating on Trustpilot had been targeted by trolls claiming the company was racist and leaving scathing one-star reviews. Calls to boycott soon followed.
What was the fuss about?
The perceived offense was a comment Dixon makes in her commercial about hoping to empower young black girls.
“The reason why it’s so important for Honey Pot to do well is so the next black girl that comes up with a great idea, she could have a better opportunity. That means a lot to me,” Dixon says at the end of the commercial.
Rational people would see how the commercial celebrates diversity and is—once again—on brand for Target. However, the trolls accused the commercial of being racist and exclusionary, despite The Honey Pot Company’s tagline: “Made by humans with vaginas, for humans with vaginas.”
i saw "honey pot" trending and thought it was about infosec. turns out it's just about white women being mad about a commercial wherein a black woman says she want's to blaze trails for black girls?
here's the commercial, if want to join me in my "are y'all fucking serious rn?" pic.twitter.com/pksQNbsjL1
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) March 2, 2020
In reality, of $100 billion in venture funding that goes to entrepreneurs in this country, less than 3% goes to female founders, and just .02% goes to black female founders, according to Renae Bluitt, brand strategist and director of She Did That, a documentary airing on Netflix that chronicles the rise of black female entrepreneurs in the United States.
“There are countless reasons why investors aren’t funding black women-owned businesses, and a lot of those reasons are issues we have little to no control over. However, what we can control is how hard we work to be successful and make a difference in our communities in spite of the funding gap,” says Bluitt. “The work Target is doing to help black women—particularly in the beauty and wellness space—to get a seat at the proverbial table is much needed. They are providing visibility and market share-building opportunities for indie brands that may not find their way onto the shelves otherwise and that quite honestly, a lot of retailers may overlook.”
Ultimately, the hate that poured in only inspired more support for Honey Pot. There are several Twitter threads with people of various backgrounds encouraging users to leave positive reviews of the brand on Trustpilot, which has since suspended comments, pending an investigation by Trustpilot’s Content Integrity team. Dixon, who was inundated with interview requests, told BuzzFeed yesterday that her company’s sales were 40% to 50% higher than usual for on a typical day. Twitter user Cat Adell created a GoFundMe in order to raise money to buy Honey Pot products and donate them to the Downtown Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles. At publication time, $300 of a $400 goal had been raised.
Target refrained from weighing in on the discussion on Twitter, but a spokesperson for the company did issue this statement to Fast Company:
“Target has a longstanding commitment to empowering and investing in diverse suppliers that create a broad variety of products for our guests. We’re proud to work with Bea Dixon and The Honey Pot team to highlight Bea’s journey to build her brand and bring her products to Target. We’re aware of some negative comments about the campaign, which aren’t in line with the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from guests who love and have been inspired by Bea’s story.”