I have heard Bruce Springsteen preach on his recent tour about how our country is more divided than ever and unfortunately his sentiment is correct. Whether it is moral issues, economic remedies, or governmental philosophies, we as a nation see more fundamental differences being vocalized.
And there is no room for brands to be part of these debates. I say this not from a moral and ethical point-of-view, but as a person who is strictly assessing appropriate business conduct aimed at maximizing business results.
These past few weeks, we have seen two brands take wrong steps to become active in one of the most heated issues in society … the rights of gay citizens.
Dan Cathy, Chick-Fil-A President and the company’s founder S. Truett Cathy, has shown a strong anti-gay stance and have passionately stated opposition to gay marriage. Among other things, he has been quoted in interviews stating, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
So why would I bother to cover this issue? For brands, the issue is that it affects business. Simple as that. While there are a host of undocumented cases of people pulling their support and patronage of Chick-Fil-A, I’ll highlight a few publicized actions.
In February, Northeastern University officials revoked plans for a campus franchise after “student concerns reflected [Chick-fil-A's] history of donating to anti-gay organizations.” And one month earlier, New York University student Hillary Dworkoski launched a petition to close the only Chick-Fil-A franchise in Manhattan.
Yes, there was some support for this gesture, but backlash as well. Actual groups popped up on Facebook denouncing Oreo’s actions and stating such things as “Kraft foods and Oreo cookies have decided to toss the morals that formed our great nation right out the window and literally toss them right down our throat! Boycott Oreo cookies and hit them where it hurts…in the wallet.” There was much conversation on Twitter as well. While there was 80% positive sentiment support for the action, almost 20% was negative. Can a brand actual say, “I don’t care about 20% of my target market and if they don’t support my views, I can do away with their business?”
This is the real issue. Everyone working behind a brand must be responsible for demonstrating actions that support business objectives of the brands. Gay rights play no role in the brand conversation.
Whether you like it or not, a brand has an agenda to push, but it is not a moral agenda. It is a product or business agenda. Brands must focus on increasing market share, revenue, and profit. And every brand action should be done with those objectives in mind. That is the responsibility of the employees behind brand execution.
I have one suggestion to remedy the errors made by both Chick-Fil-A and Oreo … maybe they should collaborate and come up with an Oreo-crusted chicken fillet being served at Chick-Fil-A. Maybe that would create some harmony in the world.
Make It Happen!