Passionate Instigator, Dynamic Problem Solver
November 6th, 2013 05:00:00 am
Are you turning business away? Can you afford to?
Knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
Company owners large and small may want to realize that unless social commentary, religion, or politics is their business, they may want to mind their own business. That is, unless they want to lose it.
Barilla Group, which produces Barilla pasta, is the latest company to irritate the LGBT community, only to regret it after a furious international backlash. Spouting rhetoric about traditional family values and opposing gay couples in the company's advertisements is going to cost them.
But Barilla, an international company, is not alone. A bakery in Oregon refused a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding and ended up going out of business.
Sometimes the reactions are surprising. Chick-fil-A's sales went up 14% and the company opened 96 new stores in 2012—the same year their contributions to groups opposing LGBT rights were publicized, and the company's president fueled the fire with comments opposing same-sex marriage.
But for every store they opened in less liberal regions, another one closed in more progressive areas. If Chick-fil-A hadn't ostracized their liberal clientele, would sales have risen more than 14%? Plus, what was the cost of the kiss and make up strategy? The company responded to the public outcry with a shift in policies, which included ceasing contributions to discriminating organizations and giving away tons of free “sorry” sandwiches.
Businesses need to keep in mind that demographics are not always what they seem, and when you decide to make “a statement” you need to be ready to pay the price. The loss of business—even if you survive in the long run—will have a ripple effect. For example, what happened to all the employees who lost their jobs because of Chick-fil-A's decision to make a statement that unintentionally casts a shadow on shareholders and employees?
If your business wants to attract a certain clientele—religious groups, a specific age bracket, people with certain political beliefs—then go for it. But do it with the understanding that by attracting some, you run the risk of alienating others.
If you are selling cakes, chicken sandwiches, movie tickets (Cinemark donated to California's same-sex marriage ban Prop 8 in 2008), or gasoline (ExxonMobil's equal opportunity employment does not include sexual orientation), then shut up and do your business. Take care of your shareholders, your employees, your customers and your product, and keep your crusades to yourself.
SOURCES: Barilla - http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/26/pasta-firm-barilla-boycott-gay
Oregon Bakery Closes Shop - http://www.queerty.com/oregon-bakery-that-refused-to-serve-gay-wedding-couple-closes-shop-20130903/
Chick-fil-A sales up 14% - http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Company/Highlights-Fact-Sheets
Cinemax Prop 8 - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/movies/22milk.html
ExxonMobil - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/25/business/a-corporate-giants-missing-support-for-gay-rights.html?_r=0
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